Longwa: Poppy gives way for the ‘Queen of Spices’

Longwa: Poppy gives way  for the ‘Queen of Spices’

Lipichem
Longwa/Mon | July 5

 

Longwa Village under Phomching block, in the upper Konyak region of Mon, is mostly known for the Indo-Myanmar international boundary that runs through the house of the village Chief or ‘Angh.’ Another notorious reputation of the area in the past was the reported cultivation of poppy for livelihood and consumption and the harvest of opium, which led to addiction related problems.

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Now however, the area is starting to develop a new reputation; one that involves cultivation of Cardamom – also known as the ‘Queen of Spices.’

 

Cardamom was first introduced in Longwa and the surrounding villages in Phomching block along with other blocks a couple of years back on a commercial scale. It was introduced in the watershed area, with more than 30 lakh seedlings supplied by the Nagaland state Department of Land Resources.

 

Today, Longwa alone produces more than 5000 kg of dry cardamom capsules, bringing in a huge return of around Rupee 40-45 lakhs a year.

 

People of Longwa and the surrounding villages cultivate this fragrant, aromatic and expensive spice crop for its lucrative economic return, which also acts as an alternate source of livelihood. However, it is interesting to note that despite culinary enthusiast’s love for cardamom, people who cultivate this expensive spice in Longwa do not use it for consumption.

 

Cardamom cultivation in the region is so lucrative that this year alone, more that 25 lakh was paid in advance to the farmers in Longwa before the harvest. A cardamom trader from Longwa further reveals that around Rs 5-7 lakhs was paid to Naga Konyak villages in Burma for the spice this year.

 

Longkhong, a progressive farmer from Longwa, who has six cardamom fields, describes cardamom as a crop that has brought social change and economic revolution in the entire region. It is fascinating to witness that the fields which were once filled with poppy are now covered with cardamom.

 

Longkhong informs that even people who do not own fields have benefited from cardamom cultivation as they are employed to clean the weeds and help in the harvest.

 

Such is the boom in trade that many cardamom farmers have started buying vehicles and plots at Mon, constructing their own houses and are able to send their children to private schools.

 

Secretary of the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) in Longwa, Manjei postulates that with the present rate of production and cultivation, the area may soon become a major cardamom belt.

 

This cardamom boom has also encouraged Konyak villagers in Burma to embrace cultivating the ‘Queen of Spices.’ However, in the Burmese side of the border, villagers are indulging in only small scale cultivation as there are no agencies to support them, except for the Konyak Mission Board and the Konyak Church Mon. Despite this, villagers there are also capable of producing hundreds of kilos of cardamom, which is marketed in Longwa.

 

Konyak Naga villages in Burma have gone to the extent of replacing Mithun rearing with cardamom cultivation. One reason for this is because Mithuns have the notorious habit of destroying crops, in addition to being not as profitable as cardamom cultivation.

 

The chairman of Longwa Village tells The Morung Express that despite a strict ban on cultivation of poppy by churches, NGOs and law enforcing agencies, there are still certain pockets where cultivation of poppy is practiced across the border, as this is the only source of livelihood.

 

But with the coming of cardamom, those areas are also being converted into cardamom fields as it fetches better returns. And in line with this, the Konyak Churches have invited ten leaders from villages across the border to receive training on cultivation of cardamom, in collaboration with the Spices Board of India.