Neten Dorji

Kangpara—The community of Passaphu in Kangpar, Trashigang, can now breathe easy about sustaining their main source of income, bamboo craft (tsharzo). In Peydung village, people have begun cultivating Neomicrocalamus bamboo, locally known as ringshu.

Tsharzo artisans use cane and bamboo to craft various products, such as orong hazib (backpack), lakchu chungchu (basket), bechab (winnowing tray), and bangchung (container), among others. Their dependence on natural resources for raw materials remains heavy.

Despite the prevalence of subsistence farming among most villagers, people continue to rely on tsharzo crafts. Many villagers engage in seasonal migration to urban areas to work at construction sites.

Bamboo and cane play multiple roles in the villages, serving as materials for house construction, weaving roofing mats, and commercial tsharzo crafts. However, the demand for tsharzo products has decreased due to inadequate forest resources, resulting in a decline in the tradition of basket weaving.

“Unchecked extraction of cane and bamboo has exerted undue pressure, reducing their abundance,” said Moenlam Dorji from Peydung, adding that such excessive exploitation poses a serious threat to the livelihoods of the community.

Highlighting the drastic decline of cane and bamboo in the forests of Kangpar and Passaphu, Moenlam Dorji said,  “It is challenging to obtain sufficient cane from the Passaphu area. People now travel to Samdrupjongkhar to extract or purchase ringshu.” 

A villager, Rinchen Dorji, said that people paid up to Nu 500 for a bundle of bamboo, enough to produce three pairs of bangchung. “I used to earn over Nu 50,000 from selling bamboo products.”

A farmer said that villagers were not able participate in trade shows like in the past due to the shortage of raw materials in the community. “The tsharzo craft would be lost if we do not intervene soon enough.”

With the support from the Department of Forests and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature, the people of Passaphu have undertaken large-scale cultivation of cane and bamboo in the chiwog. However, it dried after bearing fruits. 

Every household in Passaphu, Madewa, and Paydung, reports earning more than Nu 30,000 annually from the sale of cane and bamboo products.

A villager, Karma Phuntsho, said that the plantation of cane and bamboo would secure the livelihoods of the community as the wild sources of raw materials for tsharzo continue to deplete.

So far, the community has so far raised approximately 8,000 saplings, sourced from Khar in Pemagatshel.

The government, in collaboration with the Asian Forest Cooperation Organisation, assisted the villagers in establishing the nursery to ensure the availability of ringshu plants and preserve the age-old tradition of weaving bamboo products.