Southern Bhutan: The Foothills of the Himalayan Kingdom
Southern Bhutan is made up of Dagana at 1,520m, Samtse at 420m, Sarpang at 325m, Tsirang, at 1,560m. The people from south are known as Lhotshampas who follow the Hindu religion and speak Nepali. The majority of the Lhotsampas economy in Bhutan is based on agriculture. Predominant crops include wheat, rice, oranges, lemons, sugar cane, peas, squash, soybeans, and especially lentils. Farm animals included buffalo, cows, and goats.
Dagana is located at the altitude of 1520m and is one of the remotest, unexplored and most enticing regions of Bhutan. It houses people from all the parts of the country and is well known for its generosity and simplicity. The most mystical wonders to witness would be the amazing Daga Dzong. Daga Dzong was traditionally the stronghold of the powerful Daga Poenlop. Today, it houses the clergy and the headquarters of the district administration of Dagana. Situated on a ridge overlooking an expansive valley, Daga Dzong was built in the 16th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. It was renovated in 1897 and houses many sacred Lhakhang. Despite the remoteness, the region has all the facilities that would entice visitors. Like most districts of Bhutan, Dagana contains environmentally protected areas. In southeastern Dagana along the border with India lies the western half of Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary.
Samtse is located at the altitude of 420 m and is populated by the mountain dwelling Bhutanese. The region is inhabited by one of the ancient tribes of Bhutan i.e. Doyas. They still practice Bonism and have their own way of living, culture and uniqueness. The region shares it borders with India.
Sarpang Dzongkhag is situated in the central southern foothills bordering India. The area of the Dzongkhag stretches from Lhamoizhingkha in the west to Manas National park in the east. It is one of the oldest towns in the country with access to motorable roads as early 1950s. due to ots close proximity to the Indian markets, Sarpang has been the commercial center for the central Dzongkhags.
Sarpang has a total area of 1,651.71 sq.km with altitude ranging from 160m to 4,200m. The Dzongkhag is administratively divided into two Dungkhags which comprise Gelephu and Lhamoizhingkha, and has 12 Gewogs which includes Bhur, Chuzagang, Dekiling, Dovan, Gelephu, Hilley, Jigmechoeling, Sarpangtar, Sershong, Singhi, Taklai and Umling.
About 12 percent of the total area is under agriculture. Paddy, maize, wheat and millet are some of the major crops. Cash crops such is Orange, areca nut, cardamom, ginger, guava, lemon, banana and mango are grown extensively. Favorable terrain and climatic conditions combined with fertile agriculture land offer tremendous opportunity for farm mechanization and commercial horticultural development.
Located in the south-central part of the country, Tsirang is noted for its gentle slopes, mild climates and rich biodiversity. Favourable as well as diverse agro-ecological features provide the Dzongkhag with a high potential for the cultivation of different types of cereal grains as well as horticultural crops. Most of the Gewogs in the Dzongkhag have good transportation links and benefits from market access to major towns like Gelephu and Thimphu.
Tsirang has a total area of 636.47 sq.km with elevation ranging from 240m to 4190m. the Dzongkhag has 12 Gewogs which includes Barshong, Beteni, Dunglagang, Gosarling, Kikhorthang, Mendrelgang, Patala, Phuentenchu, Rangthangling, Semzong, Tsholingkhar, Tsirangtoe, Damphu, located in Kikhorthang Gewogs, is the main town and the administration center.
Approximately 58 percent of the land area is under forest cover comprising mainly broadleaf and chirpine forests while 42 percent is under agricultural cultivation. Paddy, maize and millet are the major cereals grown while orange, cardamom and vegetables are the principal cash crops. The sale of mandarin and cardamom constitute an important source of income for most of the farmers. Livestock rearing is also an important economic activity contributing to both subsistence consumption and to the income of farm of farm households.