Bamboo/cane plantation to sustain Monpa livelihood

The community will have their raw material source for a vital source of revenue

Tshazho: The Monpa communities of Langthel gewog in Trongsa have now little to worry about sustaining their main source of income tshazho (bamboo craft).

The Jangbi, Wamling, and Phumzur Monpa communities have started plantation of its raw materials, cane and bamboo, in their villages.

Tshazho uses cane and bamboo to weave into products like orongbhazib (backpack), lakchu  chungchu (basket), bechab (winnow), bangchung (bamboo case) and pari (mats), among others.

The Monpa communities still rely significantly on natural resources, both for food and raw materials.

Cane and bamboo are vital tshazho raw materials in Monpa villages.

Monpas still rely on tshazho because subsistence farming is practised by most of the villagers even today.  They also seasonally migrate to urban areas to work at construction sites.

While bamboo and cane are used to build houses and weave roofing mats, they also used for tshazho on a commercial scale.

But demand for tshazho products is shrinking.  Likewise, so is the availability of cane and bamboo in the forests.

“Unchecked extraction of cane and bamboo by Monpas and herders from Bumthang are exerting undue pressure, shrivelling up its abundance,” Sonam from Jangbi said, adding such excessive exploitation poses a serious threat to the livelihood of the Monpas.

Sonam said that cane and bamboo in the forests of Kumchen have dwindled drastically.

“It’s difficult to get enough cane from Kumchen even after spending the whole day because of unbridled extraction by herders, particularly from Bumthang,” Sonam said.

Herders from Chumey spent at least seven months in places like Raobe, Tonghibhang and Bongribhang with cattle and livestock.  Monpas fear illegal extraction will deplete their raw materials.

“The officials must try to scan the herders while moving back to Bumthang, since they are suspected of carrying dried cane shoots on caravans of horses,” Sonam said.  He added that high demand of patsha (cane shoot) is decreasing the availability of tshazho raw materials.

Monpas, however, have started raising cane and bamboo in Jangbi on a large-scale since 2007, with support from a remote community development project.  With support from the dzongkhag, 599 hectares of forest was designated and legalised for the communities to extract cane and bamboo.

Over 20 acres of bamboo and cane with at least three varieties of cane namely, Plectocomia himalayana, Calamus acanthospathus and Calamus latifolius were cultivated to meet the need of raw materials for the bamboo craft.  The plantation is divided among the villages.

“The members from the communities would have access to unbridled collection of seeds, shoots and raw materials for tshazho in these areas,” Langthel gewog forest ranger, Ugyen Tenzin said.

Annually, every household in Jangbi, Phumzur and Wamling claims an earning of more than Nu 30,000 from the sale of these cane and bamboo products.

“Everything, including the basic amenities like rice, oil and salt, are bought from shops with the money we earn from tshazho,” a villager from Phumzur, Ngenthi, said, adding it was their major source of income.

Ugyen Tenzin said that the plantation of cane and bamboo would insure the livelihood of the communities even if raw materials for tshazho depleted in the wild. “Even if the raw materials are exhausted in the wild, it can be replenished from the nurseries in the villages.”

Until now the community has earned over Nu 0.3 million from sale of its bamboo and cane raw materials.

By Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang

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