Neten Dorji

Trashiyangtse—Small, but important steps are being made in processing Bamdir green tea in Bumdeling Gewog, Trashiyangtse, with funding support from various agencies focusing on improving the livelihoods of the people.

The infrastructure consists of a production unit, product display unit, approach road, compound fencing, electrification, and water supply, all of which were constructed.

Bamdir’s Green Tea Coordinator, Namsey, is optimistic about the group’s ability to generate income, especially considering the dwindling yields of traditional crops such as potatoes and the renowned chilli variety, Urkabangala.

The Unit produces three varieties of herbal tea

“Our main sources of income have been chilli and potatoes, but their production is diminishing each year. Green tea production presents a promising alternative for the people of Bamdir and Wogmana,” Namsey explained.

Members said that, given the challenges posed by their primary crops, embracing green tea production could present a practical solution to sustain their livelihoods and stimulate economic development in the villages.

Dema, a group member, emphasized that collaborating with the group provides a lucrative opportunity. “Engaging in green tea production offers a promising income stream for us, given the availability of resources in the region,” she said. “Dependence on a single source of income presents numerous challenges for us.”

She said that Ngeshing Jorma, derived from Mistletoe (Viscum L.), a parasitic plant, is utilized in the preparation of suja. It is either added to water or consumed directly as a beverage.

The Ngeshing Jorma tea is made from the parasitic plant Viscum napalense and other species of Visum available in the local areas. Viscum is recognised as one of the most important non-wood forest products in the village. Products of Viscum are known to have health benefits such as treating bone fractures, backaches, and rheumatic pains.

The Unit produces three varieties of herbal tea: Hypericum herbal tea, Viscum herbal tea, and Mint herbal tea. These natural herbs are known to possess medicinal benefits according to local users, although no scientific research has been conducted on their benefits.

Local communities are expected to benefit from the herbal processing unit through income generation by making the best use of the aforesaid natural herbs through sustainable harvesting, as well as through job opportunities.

Another member of the group, Yeshi Lhamo, noted that many farmers in the villages started cultivating Hypericum tea (known locally as Sonam Choe Jha), attributing this to the park’s provision of fencing support.

“Despite facing numerous challenges, we are hopeful that once the business is established well, we can generate opportunities within the village,”said Yeshi, adding that unemployed local youths are rising annually.

People hold the belief that consuming herbal tea offers various benefits such as improving cardiovascular health, alleviating stress and anxiety, boosting resistance to colds, and assisting in the management of respiratory issues.

Farmers expressed concerns about relying solely on chilli and potatoes for income, highlighting the risks involved. The unpredictability of earnings from these crops in recent years has underscored their unreliability. Many farmers believe that transitioning to another cash crop is the only viable option.

“Instead of waiting for an alternative source of income, we decided to try now and explore herbal tea production,”said a farmer, Rinzin Dorji.

If the Bamdir Green Tea processing goes well, the group has plans to collect tea leaves from farmers, allowing them to earn money in return.

“The income generated from the herbal tea venture will enable the group to expand its activities, including scaling up tea cultivation,” said Namsey. “Additionally, this income will facilitate offering loans to members in need at reduced interest rates.”

The Queen’s project, Bhutan for Life (BFL) and GEF- Ecotourism (UNDP) funded the project with Nu 4.407million. Through Queen’s project, members also received hands-on training on machinery operation, packaging and marketing support.

Wogmana-Bomdir Tshogpa, Pema Dorji, said that this intervention aims to enhance livelihoods within the communities. “Many residents lack access to wetlands compared to others and are economically disadvantaged,” he said. “I hope that this initiative will generate significant income and contribute to poverty alleviation in the village.”