Neten Dorji  | Trashiyangtse

Urka Bangala, the chili species endemic to Bumdeling gewog, is one of the things Trashiyangtse is popular for besides Dapa and the Black-necked Cranes.

In the past, residents of Trashiyangtse cultivated it only for self-consumption, but it has now become one of the primary cash crops in Trashiyangtse. Most of the farmers started growing chili after demand has soared over the years.

During the chili season, many farmers could not sell their produce as the market was flooded with chilies from other dzongkhags and those imported ones.

A group of women came together to address the issue by producing chilli pickle in 2016 and launched last year coinciding with the 111th National Day Celebration.

They said that people often confuse Urka and Yangtsepa Ema as the same. They said Urka Bangala is bigger and mostly grown in the villages of Womanang in Bumdeling gewog. Urka Bangala in Yantsep dialect means creased owing to its shape.

The group’s chairperson, Karma Kinzang Wangmo said that farmers were challenged with poor sales during peak season and were unable to dry the produce because of the wet  weather in summer.

“We decided to make pickle, after the dzongkhag agriculture officer suggested the idea.”

The final product was also sent to the One Gewog, One Product (OGOP) outlet in Thimphu. A 550 grammes jar of pickle costs Nu 220. The group has earned more than Nu 0.4 million selling pickles in 2019.

The group’s chairperson said that the venture has helped both farmers and group members.  The group buys red chilies during peak season.

A member from Bimkhar village, Tshewang Peldon uses the office building meant for traditional paper production.  “Without separate processing house, it is inconvenient for us. We can maintain cleanliness and good hygiene, if we have a processing house,” she said.

She said that they also need a packing machine but they don’t have the budget yet to purchase one.

Another member, Sonam Choki said that the group has helped her in marketing.

“I do not have to worry now. I can convert the excess chili into pickle and sell to the group.”

She said the Urka Bangala pickle is organic and vegetarian. “While manufacturing, we use cumin, salt, mustard oil and seeds, turmeric powder and amaranth.”

They make pickle between August and November and left more than a week to fermented in the sun.

Members said that it is difficult to meet the demand. “We have orders from within the dzongkhag and from beyond,” a member said.

Cultivation of the species had once stopped but was recovered by dzongkhag agriculture sector with the assistance of agriculture research and development centre in Wengkhar, Mongar.

Meanwhile, Dzongkhag Chief Agriculture Officer, Kuenzang Peldon said with the help of CARLEP assistance the dzongkhag plans to construct a processing plant. “We have identified the land and allocated Nu 2.7 million in this financial year.”

The group is also going to produce Urka bangla Ezay and has plans to diversify into different products.