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Merak - The butter tshogpa of Cherbaling
Merak and Sakteng

Churning up a hygienic profitable business with the help of machinery from govt.

It is 4pm and Ngachung, with his two friends and horses, is heading up the three-hour walk to Cherbaling in Merak gewog, happy after selling 165kg of butter in Phongmey gewog.

Ngachung, who is the chairman of Tagang Dre Yak Laanoor tshogpa in Cherbaling, can't wait to share the good news with the rest of the members. "But I had to sell it at the local price today," he said. "Still then I'm happy that our tshogpa business is working."

The butter, which usually fetched Nu 180 a kg, was sold for Nu 150.

Unlike in the past, the villagers of Cherbaling today easily sell their dairy products in many gewogs in Trashigang. The products like fermented cheese are neatly packed in cowhide, while butter is wrapped up in paper. "Although the prices have come down, we're able to sell our products to many," Ngachung said.

What has made this easy production for the nomadic community is the cream separator machine and freezer box they have received from the government in May. In the past, they manually separated cream for cheese and butter.

Villagers said the cream separator helped them produce cream in 15 minutes, which helped them produce more cheese and butter. "We usually took three hours to churn with the traditional separator," Ngachung said. "Using the machines makes the products hygienic."

The freezer, villagers said, has helped them store butter, cheese and fermented cheese for long. Ngachung said there was a time when the butter melted before reaching Phongmey gewog, the nearest to Merak. "The freezer has helped us sell the produce, as it is brought from Merak."

The villagers paid Nu 1,200 for the machine less than the actual of price Nu 4,500. Their dairy products are also sold in Tawang, India.

About 160 households have received cream separators and some 50 are yet to receive. They sell cheese at Nu 100 a kg, while fermented cheese fetches about Nu 300 a kg.

The tshogpa, which was formed in April, has helped communities earn more income, without having to spend much as when they used to sell it individually.

Villagers said they have also stopped cutting down trees for firewood to churn milk traditionally after they got the cream separator.

With electricity reaching Cherbaling, villagers are planning to buy electric cream separator and a refrigerator. "We hope electricity to reach Merak soon," Ngachung said.

Meanwhile, a Swiss cheese factory is also under construction in Merak, which would be run by 25 people, Merak's livestock extension supervisor Phurpa Wangdi said.

The tshogpa has collected about Nu 15,000 since it started a month ago. "We'll share whatever the profit is among the members," Ngachung said.

Contributed by Yangchen C Rinzin , KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2011


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