Winter is the time for a couple to earn some money in remote Karmaling gewog of Lhamoizingkha.

Thinley Wangchuk had gone around the village two days ago and listed names of people who want to buy chillies. He then harvested the chillies, carried them in a bamboo basket and delivered it.

Thinley sold 50kg, his first harvest at Nu 100 a kilogram (kg).

“The harvest would double next time,” he said. “Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) officials are also very happy with us.”

Originally from Wangduephodrang, Thinley Wangchuk is cultivating chillies on his wife’s 30 decimal land in Karmaling. He planted 2,300 chilli saplings. RNR provided pipes and plastics.

Chilli cultivation in winter has picked up in Karmaling since 2017 with many farmers now going commercial.

Another farmer Dhan Maya Basnet had grown chillies for self-consumption in 2017. This time she has gone commercial. “I planted 900 chilli plants,” she said.

She said they are worried about the market. “Many people have been discussing who would consume all the chillies after harvest.”

Til Bahadur Sherpa harvested 357kgs from 15 decimals of land last year. The chillies fetched more than Nu 100 a kg. He said he also took the chillies to Paro and Gedu.

He said many assumed that growing winter chilli was not possible a few years ago but today they have realised that chilli cultivation is profitable.

RNR extension officer, Sangay Dorji, said the number of farmers who cultivated chilli for commercial purpose has increased to 45 from just 10 last year. “There is chilli self-sufficiency in each household in the locality,” he said.

RNR provided free plastic sheets and pipes to farmers. “From next year, it would be provided on a cost-sharing basis. The government would bear 80 percent of the cost and the remaining 20 percent would be borne by the farmers.” 

He also said that market is not a problem. “One person among the growers buy from others at Nu 100 per kg,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thinley Wangchuk is upbeat about his chilli cultivation.

“Everyone has to come together, the farmer who is interested, RNR who can guide us, and the government who can fund,” he said. “We can make money in our farms.”

Rajesh Rai | Lhamoizingkha