Saturday, November 8, 2014

The employment guarantee route to reviving cardamom

MGNREGA Revives Large Cardamom Crop in Manebong Sopakha Gram Panchayat

Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum) is a valuable, native horticulture plant of Sikkim. It is probably one of the few crops which can make a farmer rich as it is a perennial, low-volume, high-value, non-perishable, cash crop.
Maneybong Sophaka Gram Panchayat in Dentam Block of West District used to once be a large cardamom growing village. All seven wards under the Gram Panchayat used to cultivate large cardamom as the primary cash crop which was the main source of livelihood for the rural households. The rapid spread of fungal and bacterial diseases destroyed the large cardamom crop in the entire belt and its revival did not succeed for several years.
Despite this, the farmers never gave up hope.
In the year 2011, the Gram Sabha passed a resolution to take up large cardamom plantations in all seven Gram Panchayat Wards of Maneybong Sophaka GP with funding support under MGNREGA. Accordingly, in June 2011, large cardamom plantation was taken up in all the 7 villages, covering 77 hectare on an investment of about Rs. 24 lakh. About 3.50 lakh large cardamom suckers were planted in the fields of 120 farmers spread across the wards.
Unlike the traditional practice of growing cardamom as a agro-forestry crop under the shade of trees, the villager adopted the new practice of growing cardamom in dry fields which were more accessible for tending, applying manure and winter irrigation. The cardamom plants started bearing suckers from the second year onwards and the villagers benefited from their sale. Some farmers transplanted these new shoots to cover additional area thereby increasing the cardamom coverage by another 50% by the third year. The cardamom harvest started from the third year, from 2013 onwards, and on an average a household sold about 40 kg of large cardamom at an average market price of Rs. 1,100/ kg. This yield provided an additional income of Rs. 44,000 per annum per household to about 120 families in Maneybong Sophaka Gram Panchayat.


Buddhi Man Limboo, beneficiary from Upper Mukrung said, “I planted about 10,000 cardamom plants in the dry field near my house. I sold about 13,750 saplings @ Rs 4/sapling to 15 households and earned about Rs 50,000 during the last year. Also, I sold about 40kg of dried cardamom and earned another Rs. 50,000. Also, I have expanded my cardamom field by an additional 1 hectare and expect good returns in the coming years.”

Lachi Maya Limboo, 59, another beneficiary said, “I planted 5,000 plants in my 1.5 acre land in 2011 under MGNREGA. More than 90% of the plants survived and they yielded 20 kg of dry cardamom in the first year of harvest in 2013 which I sold it for Rs. 25,000. This year I am expecting 40 kg of dry cardamom which will fetch me about Rs. 50,000. This scheme has been very useful for my family and has been providing me additional income. We have also expanded the cardamom plantation to our new fields.”

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