Neten Dorji

Trashigang—In Radhi, bamboo has become a valuable source of income for the local residents. It all started in 2006 when the agriculture ministry’s sustainable land management project encouraged villagers to plant bamboo to combat land degradation.

Chador, a 67-year-old villager, began planting bamboo to protect the land from floods. The government paid him Nu 50 for each rhizome he planted in blank areas and landslide-prone sites in Radhi. Soon, other households followed suit, and bamboo cultivation became a common practice in the village.

The benefits of bamboo quickly became apparent. The mass bamboo plantation not only stabilsed landslides and protected the village from soil erosion and flash floods, it also created an opportunity for cash income. Farmers started selling bamboo locally, and it turned out to be a profitable venture after rice cultivation.

The farmers started planting more bamboo rhizomes in gullies and landslide prone areas.

“Bamboo grows rapidly, can be sold as a raw product or used to create various items, and doesn’t require fertilisers or pesticides due to its natural resilience to diseases and pests,” Ugyen from Radhi said.

He earns at least Nu 10,000 yearly from the sale of bamboo from his small backyard.

The plant also matures within just four years compared with other trees that take decades to reach maturity. The demand for bamboo increased with the rise in construction activities, making bamboo cultivation even more attractive to the villagers.

Tshechi, 61, said that they don’t have to bring bamboo from the jungle for fencing works.“The demand for bamboo increases when there is more construction going on. The income from bamboo is complimentary.”

“As demand for bamboo increases, many villagers choose to grow more  bamboo. If demand fluctuates, it may not be wise to go for mass plantation,”added the elder villager.

Radhi gup, Yonten Phuntsho said that about 300 households cultivate bamboo and started earning. “Over the years, people have realised that bamboo could become a potential source of income,” said the gup.

A bamboo pole costs Nu 150 while its rhizome fetches about Nu 120 in the market. Until 2006, villagers cultivated rice and wove raw silk textile for income, which has since then shifted to selling bamboo.

However, there are challenges in marketing bamboo, as the market in Trashigang isn’t stable, and construction activities have decreased. Despite this, the villagers remain optimistic about the future market for bamboo and hope for government support in exploring and expanding the market.

In the 1990s, Radhi village faced frequent landslides, soil erosion, and floods due to the lack of vegetation.

With the joint efforts of the Project Facilitation Office, the dzongkhag administration, Renewable Natural Resource Research Centre, and local residents, bamboo rhizome plantations were initiated in 1997. 

After two decades, bamboo has not only stabilised the landslides and reduced soil erosion, it has also enriched biodiversity and brought additional income to the villagers.