Rajesh Rai | Lhamoidzingkha

Four years ago, Dawa Sherpa, 65, was worried when the then government banned the import of green chilies.

As the main spice for any curry, Dawa and his family bought imported chilies every weekend from Lhamoidzingkha town. So he agreed to try chili farming when the gewog agriculture office floated the idea.

Today, chilies have earned him name and wealth in Lhamoidzingkha. “I never thought I could grow chilies until the ban. The ban was a boon.”

The resident of Majhigaon already sold 147kgs of chilies this winter. “A Thimphu trader took the first harvest at Nu 100 per kg on December 29,” Dawa Sherpa said.

Busy spraying cattle urine on his chili plants growing in 50-decimals lands, Dawa shared his first experience of growing chilies in 2017. He said he earned Nu 100,000 that year.

The chilies look healthier this time and Dawa Sherpa expects to sell more than 1,000kgs. He also sold more than 1,000kgs in 2018 season.

“I expect better income this year,” he said, adding that it also depends on weather conditions.

“Produce will increase from the second harvest and harvesting will continue until May to June.”

Meanwhile, all three gewogs in Lhamoidzingkha drungkhag, Karmaling, Nichula and Lhamoidzingkha are into chili cultivation since 2017.

In the 2018-2019 season, Lhamoidzingkha gewog was able to produce 8.37 metric tonnes (MT) of chilies. Initially, 17 farmers took this farming and 11 more started later.

Dawa Sherpa was able to harvest 2.06MT, the highest among the lot.

In Farmgaon, Hari Prasad Pradhan is also taking winter chili farming seriously and plans to increase the area of cultivation. He sold 169kgs this season.

“Traders who took the chilies to Thimphu from here said mine was the best,” he said.

“Locals also come to buy from me daily.”

Hari Prasad said that chili farming is a quick way to earn income and it has a great future for farmers. “Investment is also not huge.”

The Farmgaon farmer will also install two greenhouses and continue cultivation even during summer. “I will be receiving 80 percent subsidy from the government,” he said.

Farmers also said that the chilies are organic and pesticides are used only when agriculture officers find it necessary.

In 2016 June, import of three types of chilies—Hybrid, Terasani and Akasani were banned due to the high content of pesticides. Winter chili farming was then initiated in the following year.

Meanwhile, Dawa Sherpa said besides making money, growing chilies has also kept him physically fit. “I cannot stay idle at this age.”