For villagers of Chungkha in Chhukha’s Bongo Gewog, orange used to be the main source of income for years. However, as the fruit started drying up, people shifted to cultivating cardamom a few years ago. Today, the villagers are facing a similar fate as their cardamom plants have also started drying up.
These days, many of the villagers in Chungkha have abandoned their cardamom plants, even neglecting to weed them. People said they used to earn good money from selling cardamom in the past. Some made around Nu 300,000 in a year.
Today, with most of the plants dry and unable to bear fruit, the revenue for the farmers has also dried up.
“Drying of cardamom plants is a big problem. It is one of our main sources of income. The least we can make from selling cardamom is about Nu 60,000. Some earn about Nu 100,000 to 200,000. We informed our Tshogpa about the plants drying up and the Tshogpa has informed the gewog officials. But they told us that it is the same everywhere and nothing can be done,” said Tashi Dorji, a resident.
“I sold cardamom for three years and after that, the plants started drying. We were depending our livelihood on cardamom but now the plants are all drying. We do not have other sources of income, especially for old people like us,” said Seyri, another resident.
Meanwhile, the Gewog Agriculture officials said the drying of cardamom plants is not because of any disease.
Officials added that the plant can bear fruit for more than five years but in Bhutan, fruiting occurs for only about two to three years after which it starts drying up.
Officials said people should plant new saplings periodically to replace ageing plants.
Today, in response to these challenges, villagers have turned to vegetable cultivation, focusing on crops such as beans and maize to sustain their livelihoods. Moreover, there is renewed interest in reverting to orange cultivation. According to villagers, the government has already distributed orange saplings to some households, with more expected soon.
Edited by Tshering Zam