Under a canopy of cardamom orchard in Gosarling, Tsirang, Damanta Thapa and her son are engrossed harvesting cardamom.
Gosarling is one of the hottest places in Tsirang and cardamom ripens earlier than other parts of the dzongkhag. Damanta says she is late to harvest while her neighbours have already dried and packed.
As the mother and son chop cardamom capsules (cob) from the stem they become more disappointed. Every other capsule is seedless. “See it’s all empty, there is barely anything to put in our harvesting basket,” Damanta said.
They move to another plant. It’s the same there – most capsules are without seeds.
Damanta explains that cardamom this year does not have good fruiting because of less rainfall. “Sometime between April and May when it was flowering, there was no rain so all flowers dried. This resulted in capsules without seed” she said.
She has planted cardamom on at least 1.5acre land. In the previous years she could harvest a least 10 mons(1mon is 40kg) but this year she expects less than two mons.
It has been two days since her neighbour Dhan Bahadur Biswa also began harvesting. He has a comparatively small-scale plantation with about 100 plants in front of his house.
Dhan Bahadur, 76, is harvesting for the second time. He harvested five kg last year that he sold for Nu 500 a kg. This year during the flowering season his hopes were to harvest at least 30kg. “Cardamom had flowered well this time but the lack of rain killed the flowers and my hopes,” he said.
Farmers like him who share crop on someone else’s land depend on small-scale plantation of cardamom for income. He says that cardamom is such a crop that can’t be watered for better production. “Drought has hit farmers like us bad this year,” he said.
Less rainfall has not just affected cardamom but paddy as well. Dhan Bahadur’s paddy terraces are parched. Irrigation water is shared and his field gets one night flow after every 13 days. “That is not enough to grow paddy, yield will be affected,” he said.
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang