Tradition: Sephu in Wangduephodrang was known for its high quality bamboo products, which the locals bartered for edibles with the people of Sha valley and upper Trongsa.
Shops in Chazam, the main road point for the villages then, displayed the bamboo products along the road. But displays of the bamboo products have declined in the last few years.
The assumption is that the locals are no longer interested in weaving bamboo products, as cordyceps has made them rich. But the reality is different.
Dawa Tshering, 38, from Lamji said he grew up weaving bamboo products but unavailability of bamboo forced him to stop weaving about six years ago.
He said the bamboo in the locality died out completely, preventing him from carrying on their age-old tradition. “I think everyone here would like to weave bamboo products, as it is something we are good at but the resources do not favour us,” Dawa Tshering said.
Thinley Dorji, 28, is also from Lamji. He was contributing labour at a school building construction site when Kuensel visited the area.
He said it could be much easier for the local people to weave bamboo products rather than doing other works. “The prices of bamboo products have increased by almost three times and it will be much more viable to concentrate on bamboo products now.”
Dema, 53, said her four children and husband are good bamboo weavers. She said their family wove mats, baskets and sieves. “We are totally dependent on cordyceps now and I am worried my children will suffer if our art is not revived.”
Pasa Gem, 61, from Lubzur said cordyceps has taken over as the main source of income in the locality and young people are not interested in bamboo weaving.
“The situation has worsened because of the unavailability of resources,” she said.
However, some young people in the locality said cordyceps yield is declining and their age-old tradition of bamboo weaving needs to be revived.
“People in Sephu do not have much land and there is no way we can depend on agricultural products if the cordyceps harvest becomes unsustainable,” Dawa Tshering said.
The area falls under the Wangchuck Centennial Park.The park is in the process of reviving the bamboo weaving tradition in the area.
Park ranger, Sangay Penjor, said natural bamboo died off a few years ago and the park is providing financial support to the locals so that they can grow bamboo on their own land.
He said people have collected bamboo saplings from the forest and have started growing it on their own land.
“The park is also planning to form a farmer’s group so that people can weave together and market together,” Sangay Penjor said.
He said people are banking on cordyceps and they buy a year’s ration from Phuentsholing at one go, which is worrying. “I am hopeful that if we revive the art of bamboo weaving, people will start the barter system and they will not be totally dependent on imported goods.”
Meanwhile, people in the Nub Chutoe region, who use the bamboo products, say they are waiting for the people of Sephu to weave bamboo products and bring it for sale.