Women from two villages in Jigmeling formed a group that makes this best-selling preserve

Food-processing: Sarpang is blessed with fertile land.  Farmers grow both cash and food crops, and vegetables are fast becoming a good source of cash income.  If that is not enough, the dzongkhag is also rich in non-wood forest products.

One such product is bamboo shoot, which is much in demand when processed into pickles.  Realising the potential, 21 women from Chungshing and Chakpai villages in Jigmeling formed a group about two years ago.   The women are busy cultivating ginger these days, but once the work is over, they will head to the forest above their village to collect bamboo shoots.

Bamboo grows in abundance and a feasibility study found that farmers could harvest 1,800kg of its shoot annually from the approved area, according to the man behind the group, gewog extension officer, Jigme Tenzin.

The extension officer developed a proposal, which the rural livelihood project in Zhemgang approved, together with a financial support of Nu 406,000.  A portion of the budget was spent on buying pickle processing utensils, packaging bottles, recipes and ingredients.

Jigme Tenzin said that the project was developed as there were no jobs in the village, and many villagers were looking for opportunities outside the village. “Chungshing and Chakpai people come from a marginalised socio-economic background, which forces them to migrate looking for jobs,” he said.

With the cooperative now in full business, farmers are happy with the newfound source of income. “It’s a blessing for women in the village,” the secretary of the cooperative, Rinzin Wangmo, said.

Harvest will start in June and will go on until August.  The cooperative has made an income of Nu 20,000 in 2013 from the sale of bamboo shoot pickle, and Nu 77,700 last year from the sale of 659 bottles of pickles.

Members of the group said their first finished product was taken to the first ever Agri-Flori Expo held in Changlimithang.  They sold out. “As of now we don’t have any outlet in the locality or in the community, but we have plans to open one along the Gelephu-Zhemgang highway,” said a member.

The group has 3,000 acres of approved collection area for a period of five years, but bamboo shoots are found only in about 150 acres.

By Yeshey Dema, Tsirang