Farmers in Pema Gatshel have started domesticating a wild plant known to have medicinal value. Locally known as Thormom or Wangpaymo in Tshangla, the plant has become a source of income for some of the farmers there. Besides being used as a folk medicine for pain and high blood sugar, its flower is consumed as a vegetable. The farmers grow the plant and sell it in the market for cash.
The plant has long strap-like leaves up to a metre in length. Scientifically known as Tupistra Nutan, it usually grows in the wild. Although its root and flower are considered herbs, their medicinal properties have not been proven till now.
The flowers produced in late summer reportedly make a unique curry with a slightly bitter taste. The villagers used to harvest it from the forest in the past. But now, they are cultivating the plant near their homes.
“We used to climb cliffs to collect the plant. That was risky as we could fall from the cliff. So, later we started planting it in our village and now we don’t have to go into the forest,” said Jamtsho, a resident of Langeri.
“We didn’t grow it for commercial purposes initially, we cultivated it just for self-consumption. But some people were interested in buying it,” said Tsheten Dorji, a resident of Gazawoong.
What was initially domesticated for self-consumption gradually became a source of income. Some of the farmers here sell up to 20 kilograms of the flower every season. A kilogram of the plant’s flower earns them up to Nu 150. Some even sell dried flowers.
“Now it is almost 3 years since we started the business. In the past, there weren’t any buyers. So, we used to consume ourselves and give it to others for free. Now, as we also have a road in our village, we see some opportunity to earn cash from selling it,” said Choni Dorji, another resident of Gazawoong.
Some farmers cultivate the plant on over 10 decimals of land while some grow on smaller areas. Nevertheless, they have plans to expand cultivation.
Thinley Dorji, Pema Gatshel
Edited by Phub Gyem