I am currently in Lobesa with a group of guests from School of Wellbeing Studies and Research from Thailand. Their main interest is organic farming and they take Bhutan as an example where organic farming is widely practiced and believes that Bhutan’s aim of making the country a 100% organic country is possible. So in this connection, we visited a farm in Kabisa, a village on the way to Gasa. Our host and interviewee was a 74-year-old man named Kencho Tshering.
He practices integrated farming where he grows different types of fruits and vegetables. He also has three cattle. Though integrated farming is common in Bhutan and it is what we have been practicing traditionally, for people from other countries, it is something strikingly interesting. From my interaction, I learned that organic farming is a farming with knowledge and when they see integrated farming in our farms, they see that our farmers have already been practicing a kind of technique that is encouraged in organic farming. Anyway, my purpose for this blog post is not about organic farming but the experience of the short visit to the farm.
A very pretty young woman received us. In fact, on the first glance you won’t believe that she is 28 and a mother of a six years old son. I instantly started my conversation with her because I wanted to know why she dropped school. And when I learned that the child who was with her is her son, I felt compelled to ask her age because she looked very young. She is Ap Kencho’s daughter. He has four daughters, and they all dropped school after class 10. She said that in the beginning, she regretted having left school, but she is okay now. Her husband was her classmate in high school and he is currently pursuing bachelors in medicine in Chiangmai, Thailand. She had to leave school because her father divided the lands among the four siblings and they were told that it was up to them whether they wanted to leave them fallow, or tend to them and make a living from it. And whether out of choice or compulsion, all of them dropped school and stayed home, farming.
I felt sad. It is not that I see farming as an inferior way to earn a living. It has its charms, its hardships, and its gracefulness. But honestly, I know that hardships and difficulties in farming is both mental and physical, and it is much, much more than what we might suffer in doing an office work. I also know that when we farm, the pride we get as we harvest what we have sowed is huge. They also have a sense of food security and food sufficiency that office goers don’t. They do not have to worry what is happening to the import of food (mainly the vegetables and food grains like rice). But counting that too, when I ask myself whether I would choose to go back to being a farmer, I can’t get an straight, definite ‘yes’. Despite the farm mechanization, despite the improved seeds and methods of farming, I know life in the villages is still very hard. And it was a surprise for me to actually meet two young women who had dropped school after their father told them that they would have to live in the village, carrying out the tradition of farming. At least in the case of the elder daughter, it seems she will be going away from the house anyway when her husband gets in the job because there is no hospital in the village where he could ask for is placement. Considering this, I think, it would have been better if she pursued her studies. Though she was very humble and told me that she was not a bright student, I got a feeling that she must have been one of the toppers in her class.
As I go on meeting different people discussing organic farming and food security, I hear a lot of people saying that our young people do not want to go back to villages to be farmers after they finish their schools. I think expecting them to go back and farm is a little too much at the moment. I know that would be a better choice than staying in Thimphu looking for a job that is never going to come, but still, it will be a difficult choice for many. And I must be honest that if I were to be the one to ask them to make that choice, I would feel it is unfair. Why should it be the ones occupying chairs in the office to tell them that going back to the village is their best option, when they have not done it themselves?