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Gogona's Farmers
Farm road
Gogona
In the early 80s the Gogona dairy farm in Wangduephodrang was regarded as a successful model farm that could be replicated in other parts of the country. But by the 90s the successful farm began to falter after squabbles erupted amongst the Gogona community on ownership rights over pasture lands and management of the dairy farm. The farm finally shut down in 1995, run down and broke.
Now almost a decade later, the local community want to start up the farm and earn the additional income like it used to be in its heydays.

"Gogona lies on a high altitude and hardly anything grows there," said 54-year old Tashi Dagay. Livestock is the main livelihood for the people of Gogona which is a four-hour walk from Phobjikha valley.

German and Swiss support
Gogona A community enterprise : the Gogona farmers
The community has already requested the dzongkhag administration for funds to rehabilitate the farm and the Bhutan-Germany sustainable renewable natural resources (RNR) development project (BG-SRDP) through the German technical cooperation (GIZ) has committed about Nu 700,000 for equipment and renovating the milk processing unit.

The Gogona farmers, meanwhile, have pooled about Nu 200,000 to buy 19 hybrid cows from Bumthang to supply the milk for the processing unit which is expected to become operational in about a year.

The proceeds from the farm would be paid to the farmers depending on the amount of money they invested in buying the cows. "The money we earn means better food and clothes," said Kunzang Dorji who invested about Nu 20,000 in buying the cows. "It will also be a great help when we conduct our annual lochoe." The agriculture ministry also donated a hybrid breeding bull to the Gogona community to improve and preserve the improved breed. The local bulls will be castrated to protect the new stock from deterioration. The local cows give about a litre of milk a day while the improved breeds gives about four litres a day.

Gogona The Gogona milk processing unit
Reviving the Gogona farm also means reviving the initial links of Swiss assistance to livestock development in Bhutan which began with a milk processing unit (MPU) at Maneting, near Phobjikha in 1968. Two years later, it was shifted to Gogona. Under the Swiss, the Gogona dairy farm became a successful story and a model farm for the rest of the country. The focus of the Swiss assistance later shifted to Bumthang to replicate the success story in other regions of the country.

In 1975, the diary farm and the pastureland were handed over to the local gomdhey on a loan of about Nu 100,000, which was to be paid over a period of 10 years. The gomdhey sold the dairy farm and the pastureland to four farmers in 1987 for about Nu 129,000.

However, the right over the pastureland, which did not have any proper registration, became the main bone of contention among the Gogona farmers. Misunderstandings and non-cooperation among the farmers ultimately forced the MPU to shut down. The Gogona community today has compromised on this issue and decided that the pastureland would be distributed among its 33 households. One extra acre would be allotted to each of the four farmers who bought the farm from the gomdhey. The community has also decided to form a farmers group to look after the daily operation of the dairy farm. The plan is to start small initially with the products to be sold in Wangduephodrang and other local markets. "Our ultimate goal would be to sell our processed cheese to Thimphu and rest of the country and give competition to the well known Bumthang cheese," said Kunzang Dorji.

With the construction of a farm road link to Phobjikha, luck is once again shining on Gogona.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper

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