Meet Karma, A young, educated Bhutanese woman who has chosen to remain on her family farm. The farm is located outside of Paro at an altitude above 9100 ft. In addition to growing a variety of vegetables, they also own cattle. Twice each year the cattle must be moved to better grazing grounds. Each fall they move them down to Chukka and each spring they move them back up to Paro.
Here is Karma’s story Migrating each spring and fall along with our cattle has been an old tradition and an important part of our lifestyle. It’s also very challenging for our family. Just a few years ago, my family owned 26 head of cattle. We must move them twice a year so that there is enough food for them. In autumn and winter the weather is too harsh in Paro, so we move them to a lower feeding ground. In spring and summer, we bring the cattle back to our place. The warmer weather brings on new challenges. The insects and leeches also like this weather. We must work very hard to keep them under control so our cattle can be comfortable. Keeping cattle is hard work, but we love the summer when they can be home with us.
Cattle migration has always been an exciting time for my family.
Every year as a child, my whole family would go with the cattle on this 5-night, 6-day trek. We traveled from my place (Paro) to Chukha. We hiked, singing along with our father guiding cattle, climbing beautiful hills, and crossing the rivers. It’s such a great memory to reminisce about. These days, it no longer happens because my parents are getting old. It’s hard for them to trek for long days and all my siblings are working and studying away from home. With no options left, my parents had to sell some cattle and give some away to my relatives.
Unfortunately, this tradition is fading away mainly because of motorable roads everywhere now. Most people prefer sending their cattle by vehicle. Even though our situation has changed a lot, we still prefer to send our cattle by foot, with someone whom we know. In exchange, we give them some cash and groceries to eat on the way. On the first day, we must assist them to keep our cattle on track. It would be hard for them to look after all the cattle as there are many ways for them to get lost. Day one is the most challenging day. We must cross the Haa Chu River which flows from Haa District. Extra care must be taken to guide the cattle so that they don’t drown. After crossing the river, we trek for one more hour, have our lunch and then we depart from our beloved cattle and those who take them the rest of the way. We return to our Village which takes us 3 to 4 hours. In total the one-day hike takes us 8 hours. I always try to find a reason to go somewhere in nature and wander, though 8 hours was too much for my neighbor. I would tell her jokingly, that we grow old when we stop hiking!
A new opportunity-Our mushroom project Bhutan Network USA has partnered with Bhutan Network (Europe) and Bhutan Mushroom Center to provide a new income stream for farmers like Karma. Our project entails collecting mushrooms in the wild. We are focusing on the Paro and Bumthang regions, with over 200 farm families involved. Our Board Member, Daniel Winkler, internationally recognized mycologist, has put together a training manual to teach our farmers what to look for and how to properly prepare the mushrooms for market. He is overseeing this project remotely, while Sabitra, from the Bhutan Mushroom Center will be overseeing the in-country operation. Spring 2022, she will be organizing the training, facilitating quality control and packaging of the dried mushrooms. Sonam, a local mushroom expert, will be assisting her in the field. In addition, he is our primary carpenter who is currently building the food dryers for this project. Bhutan Network has made an agreement with Gebana, a fair-trade company based in Switzerland, to import and sell our organic dried mushrooms throughout Europe.
We need more food dryers Karma and her family are the recipients of one of our food dryers. With the reduced number of cattle, their yearly income has suffered. This mushroom project will help to provide additional seasonal income for her family and others like them. WE NEED YOUR HELP. PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING to our project fund so we can improve the lives of more farm families.
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