In a small patch of land bellow Dhakphai village in Zhemgnag, fresh shoots shoot up through the grasses. It is Dhakphai Aumsu Tshogpa’s turmeric field, fenced with barbed wire.
Although the area is quite small, it is the main source of income for the members of the group.
Group members said that turmeric is selling well and the group is unable to meet local demand.
The Chairman of the group, Sangay Lhaden, said it is not because the members are not working to produce enough turmeric, but because the group doesn’t have enough land to grow turmeric.
The group grows turmeric on two-acre land that belongs to Dhakphai community lhakhang.
“We had hired another two-acre land from one of the private individuals, which the owner took back,” Sangay Lhaden said.
People in the community, who are not members of the committee, have started complaining that the group is growing turmeric on the lhakhang’s land.
Sangay Lhaden said the group is looking for vacant government land nearby so that they could arrange to grow turmeric.
“Members are unwilling to go to work in the far away fields since they are all women who have to look after their homes,” she said.
The group sells turmeric both in the form of dried chipped roots and powder.
The group has grinders, dryer, grass cutter and a power tiller. National Women’s Association of Bhutan (NWAB) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are the main supporters of the group.
The group has a small store built on a private land with funding from UNDP. Members said that the landowner is now asking them to remove the structure.
The group is the first and the most successful women’s group in Zhemgang.
Members said the cultivation of turmeric has improved their livelihood. Each member makes about Nu 15,000 every year.
The group produced 600 kilograms of turmeric in 2016. It is expecting to produce more this year.
A kilogram of dried turmeric root sells for Nu 100. Powder weighing 100 grams sells for Nu 80.
Sangay Lhaden said the group has decided to increase the price of the dried root from 100 a kg to 200 from this year due to rise in the cost of production.
NWAB established the group in 2007 with seed money of Nu 25,000. There are 11 members today.
Nima Wangdi | Zhemgang