Nabji -Korphu Community based Nature Tourism Trek,Bhutan New Trek Route,Trekking Bhutan
20 February, 2009 - A sweet fragrance of cardamom fills the air in Nabji Korphu as the evening breeze blows over the quiet village. But the cardamom story is not as sweet as its fragrance when villagers recall how their main cash crop was wiped out a decade ago.
Located at the foothills of the rugged Black Mountain range between Trongsa and Zhemgang dzongkhags, Nabji Korphu was once famous for its abundance of cardamom, claim villagers. Not anymore.Today, acres of cardamom plantation lie overgrown with bushes and farmers, who’d grown rich on the spice, blame a disease, which dried their source of cash.It all started in the early 1990s, say farmers. “The plant’s leaves turned yellow, wilted and died; the fruit became hard and the juice white,” said a farmer. “It was all over.”The blight (a plant disease), which affected many cardamom growing regions, did not spare Nabji- Korphu. “Within years, villagers started working as daily wage earners for cash,” said a farmer.
Villagers said that, a decade ago, people of Nabji Korphu were fairly rich. With cardamom as their staple cash crop, almost all of the 221 households earned about Nu 20,000 to Nu 150,000 a year.
Money was not a problem when people cultivated cardamom, according to Dubala, a 55-year-old villager from Nabji. “Even a small child used to carry money in his hemchu,” he says. Dubala’s last bumper harvest about six years ago fetched him Nu 70,000.One of the oldest residents of Korphu, Tshewang Dema, 80, said that the then Trongsa dzongda, Adap Sangay, encouraged the people in her village to grow cardamom in the late 1960s.
Tshewang Dema said that the people got cardamom seeds from Gaon village of Sarpang dzongkhag to cultivate in their dry land. “After five years, most people harvested and sold cardamom, earning income with which they constructed houses, bought CGI sheets and also wet land from landowners in Bumthang,” she said.Tashi Dorji, 67, from Korphu, said that he grew cardamom on his three and a half acres of dry land. “I used to reap about five mon of cardamom every year and get about Nu 23,000,” said Tashi Dorji.
According to Tashi Dorji, since cardamom was the main source of income, farmers with large land holdings in Nabji Korphu grew cardamom on 10 acres, while those with smaller ones used six to seven acres. “The poorest one also owned one acre of cardamom,” he said.
A father of five school going children, Karma, 44, said that life became harder after all the cardamom in his four-acre dry land died. “I used to earn well from elaichi (cardamom), but now I face a lot of problem in educating my children,” he said, adding that, once a self-sufficient farmer, he now has to do all kinds of work to keep his family living. “I bought horses and worked as porter, I opened a shop and I tried to do some contract works too,” he said.
How the coveted spice improved villagers’ living standards is still evident. Kuenga, 73, from Nabji owns a two-storied traditional house and was one of the earliest in the village to use CGI roofing, solar panels, and sinks in the bathrooms. “It was all because of cardamom,” he says.
But, with the disease, which he calls an epidemic, Kuenga said he had to take loans for his children’s education. “We did everything to revive our source of cash crop but nothing worked.”
In an effort to save the cardamom, villagers changed seeds and tried cultivating in new plantations. New varieties of seeds were brought from Kalimpong. Korphu gup Wangda said that the gewog, through the GYT and DYT, requested the then agriculture minister, who provided trial seeds.
According to the dzongkhag agriculture officer, Nawang Chogyal, the disease caused huge losses to people, although no records were maintained in the dzongkhags. However, the dzongkhag agriculture office tried to revive it on small scale and brought about three acres of land under plantation by trying seeds from Gaon village, Sarpang. “It’s showing good signs and the dzongkhag is planning to scale up the area of plantation,” he said.
In 2008, about 200 kg of cardamom from the trial seeds were sold, which is encouraging, according to the agriculture officer.
Duration: 6 days, Max. Elevation: 1,500m
Highest Camp: 1,500m
Best Seasons: October – April
Day 1 Tongtongphey – Jangbi village
(Total distance: 7-9.5 kms, 3-4 hours, altitude range 1,000m – 1,350m)
Day 2. Jangbi village- Kudra village
(Total distance: 13-14.5 kms, circa 6 hours, altitude range – 1,350m – 1,500m)
Day 3. Kudra village- Nabji village
(Total distance: 11-14 kms, circa 5-7 hours, altitude range – 1,500m – 1,300m)
Day 4. Nabji village – Korphu village
(Total distance: 9.5-13km, 2-3 hours, altitude range – 1300m – 1500m)
Day 5. Korphu village – Nimshong village
(Total distance: 11-12 km, circa 4-6 hours, altitude range – 1,500m – 1,300m)
Day 6: Nimshong village – Trongsa town
(Total distance: 5-6km, circa 2 hours, altitude range – 1,300m – 1,000m)
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