Reported By: Christina Ronghipi, Officer Programmes, Northeast, Gayatri Mahar, Assistant Manager, Climate Change and Anugalaya – IGSSS Partner
Edited By: Communications Team
Sikkim, Gangtok: Sikkim is one of the largest producers of Cardamom in India but over past few years there has been a steep decline cardamom production which has drastically affected the livelihood of the farmers. A soil born fungus causing leaf blight in the plants is resulting in declined yield. Also, after the disease strikes, the soil is rendered unfit for most crops unless treated. Over the years, fluctuations in climatic patterns such as recurrent hailstorms and long spells of winter are some of the key reasons behind the spread of such a disease which is severely affecting the production. To overcome this fall in production the rejuvenation of disease resistant large cardamom was suggested as part of the Sikkim State Action Plan on Climate Change. Keeping in line with the idea, Anugyalaya DDSSS, with the support of IGSSS, focused towards the revival of cardamom in six villages of Northern Sikkim.
Under the intervention, 60 families were linked with the Horticulture Department for technical support to propagate disease resistant varieties of cardamom. Initially, 6000 saplings of disease resistant varieties were provided to 60 selected families. In order to counter the effect of climate variability, the families were provided with technical knowledge and input, to protect the plants in adverse circumstances.
In one of the intervention villages, Ringhim, a fern locally named as ‘Uniu’ has been planted to cover the plants, and protect them against frost and hailstorm as well as excessive heat or sunlight. In Ambithang village, the farming communities have planted cardamom along with vegetables such as round chillies in order to counter pest infestation. The communities have started cardamom cultivation in their fields against the traditional practice of cultivating cardamom in forest areas. The saplings are showing resistance to disease. Buoyed by this success, Village Action Team (VAT), a community based body, which is an integral part of the IGSSS supported interventions towards forming sustainable community institutions, approached the Department of Horticulture Sikkim for further assistance.
Seeing the success of the first batch of cardamom farming, the Department of Horticulture provided 30,000 saplings to these villages in the second phase. With this intervention the marginalized farmers have been able to re-started the plantation of cardamom to sustain their livelihood. With proper care given to the plants, the cardamom can bear fruit for the coming 15 to 20 years. The market rates of cardamom are very high and fetch a sustainable amount of income to the farmers. Therefore, this intervention has definitely given the community a sustainable option for uplifting their livelihood.
Large cardamom, a perennial shade loving herb is the main cash crop being cultivated in Sikkim and Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Sikkim is the largest producer of large cardamom and constitutes to big share for the Indian and world market for cardamom. The plant grown in tracts with well distributed rainfall spread around 200 days with a total of about 3000-3500 mm/year. Hence its cultivation requires sufficient moisture in the soil. Likewise, a large section of farmers under IGSSS’ livelihood intervention – SOUL in areas of Northern Sikkim are engaged in large cardamom cultivation which has given them a sustainable source of income.