Cardamom Cultivation in Chhuzom: Hopes for the Future

In the serene village of Sherubling Chiwog, nestled in the heart of Bhutan, the aromatic allure of cardamom hangs in the air. The verdant hills of Lhayul village have long been a haven for cardamom cultivation, a practice intertwined with the livelihoods of its residents. However, a tale of fluctuating prices, climatic challenges, and unwavering hope unfolds as we delve into the lives of the local farmers.

Nima Dorji Tamang, a 58-year-old farmer from Sherubling Chiwog, sheds light on the disparity in cardamom prices within the community. While some farmers part with their produce at Nu 1,500 per kg, others are holding out for prices ranging between Nu 1,625 and Nu 1,750 per kg. Astonishingly, large-scale farmers are setting their sights even higher, anticipating a price of Nu 1,875 per kg.

Last year’s cardamom harvest was bountiful, yet the highest price fetched was a mere Nu 500 per kg. The stark contrast can be attributed to a confluence of factors—water shortages, insufficient rainfall, and winter snowfall—all conspiring to curtail cardamom yield in Lhayul village.

Subitra Phuyel, a resilient 58-year-old resident of Lhayul, recounts her struggles as she tends to two acres of cardamom cultivation. While she managed to yield seven 40kg bags of cardamom last year, this year’s production dwindled to just four bags due to the unrelenting snowfall. Despite the toil, Phuyel emphasizes that cultivating cardamom is not just laborious but also instrumental in covering expenses for her grandchildren.

Another farmer, 41-year-old Khangendra Khandal, mirrors the sentiments of hope for a better production season ahead. Although his yield dropped from 600 kg last year to 320kg this year, he finds solace in the current favorable prices, even as they hover around Nu 1,300 per kg.

Chhuzom’s dependency on cardamom as a primary income source is evident, with each household dedicating half of their land to spice cultivation. Gewog statistics underscore this reliance, revealing that farmers have encroached upon over 470 acres of estate land for cardamom cultivation.

The mode of selling cardamom has undergone a transformation, with farmers now directly engaging with local traders who purchase the spice at their doorsteps. The recent upgrade of the gewog center road and the impending Gelephu Mindfulness City project are anticipated to open new avenues for marketing and elevate prices for the farmers.

Bal Kumar from Pelrithang in Chhuzom expresses optimism about the future, saying, “More people will be coming to Gelephu, leading to increased business and opportunities. With easy access to marketing, we will have to focus extensively on livestock and agriculture farming.”

Bhutan Trade Statistics for 2015 unveil the significance of cardamom as an export commodity, with over 845 metric tonnes valued at about Nu 940.85 million being exported to India and Bangladesh. This, however, represents only the formal trade, with a considerable volume being informally traded.

Cardamom, a crop cultivated in 17 dzongkhags, sees its largest production in dzongkhags like Samtse, Chhukha, Sarpang, Dagana, Tsirang, and Zhemgang. As the sun sets over the hills of Chhuzom, the cardamom farmers, facing challenges head-on, embody the spirit of hope that their toil will be rewarded not just in the prices of their produce but in the prosperity of their community.

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