Phub Dem | Sangbaykha

Cardamom cultivation gained significant momentum in the southern gewogs of Haa: Sangbaykha and Gakiling. Almost every household today grows the crop.

However, the farmers are trying to explore alternatives. What was a profitable business is becoming a concern today due to poor yields and a decline in cardamom pricing since 2019.

According to Kezang Om from Tsholuna, growing cardamom was once a lucrative business. Forty kilograms of cardamom would fetch around Nu 75,000 at that time, but the same amount brings in only Nu 15,000 nowadays.

The crop remains a major source of income for most people in these gewogs. Although the land in the villages is fertile and suitable to grow all kinds of crops, people are engaged in producing cardamom.

But there are challenges with diversifying the crops. For instance, the locals tried growing different types of fruit after the government provided free seeds, but for reasons unknown, the plants failed to bear fruit, and some just dried up.

Kezang Om said that growing rice has become difficult due to a scarcity of water. “We grow vegetables for self-consumption. Commercial scale production of vegetables is unsustainable because of poor access to market and conditions.”

Availing support from the gewog Research in the Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) sector is a challenge as well.

Gem Tshering from Sangbay Ama said that the locals have been deprived of the ability to avail support during emergencies, as it is challenging to meet with officials.

He said he had to travel to Haa to get cattle tick repellent.

The locals tried their hand at livestock farming as well. However, without consistent support from relevant agencies, another farmer from Sangbay Ama, Tshering, said it was challenging.

He said that crops such as potatoes and chillies are susceptible to pests and diseases.

The Member of Parliament (MP) from Sombaykha, Dorjee Wangmo, also highlighted the challenges facing the cardamom growers in her constituency last year. She said that almost 80 percent of farmers in Sombaykha and Gakiling gewogs are dependent on the crop, and that poor yields and prices since last year have affected them badly.

She said that farmers availed loans from banks and invested in cardamom. “With the falling prices, the farmers are now having difficulty paying off the loans.”

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk