If you are travelling along the Samdrupjongkhar-Dewathang highway, you will see a group of women uprooting seedlings everyday.

The women are looking for teak seedlings, which they claim is the new business in town. They raise the seedlings for a year and sell it to foresters, who then supply it to villagers.

A Samdrupjongkhar resident, Paro Zangmo, 56, said she started planting teak seedlings two years ago. “It doesn’t require any work and the seedlings grow fast.”

She said she plants the saplings in her vegetable garden and fetches Nu 10,000 to 15,000 a year by selling it next year. “I sell about 1,000 to 1,500 saplings every year.”

With everyone into the business, they claim that they can get the saplings only along the highway.

Seldon, 52, from Kurtoe said although the business is attractive, it is difficult to raise the saplings since it gets damaged in heat and heavy downpour. She said she could only sell 500 saplings of the 2,000 seedlings she raised.

Forest officials buy the saplings from them on June 2, coinciding with the social forestry day. “I earn Nu 5,000 to 10,000 every year.”

Meanwhile, Mendrel Chezom, 50, is trying the business this year and has planted about 100 seedlings. “I am trying because everyone is saying it is worth,” she said adding that it’s difficult to get 50 to 60 saplings a day.

For Dorji Dema, 31, it has been two years since she started raising the saplings. “It is easy money for poor people like us.”

Although there is no dearth of market to sell the saplings, the women are worried that they would run out of seedlings. “Everyone goes to collect the saplings along the highway and I am worried it will run out,” Dorji Dema said.

Meanwhile, teak is one of the most sought after timbers in the country. It is also considered to be attractive, durable, light, and has good resistance to termite, fungus and weathering.

Kelzang Wangchuk |  Samdrupjongkhar