Normally winter is the time when farmers in the Country catch their breath and enjoy after all those months of back-breaking farm drudgery. With all their year harvest safely stored in the granary, men are out in archery range shouting at their top of voice while women keep themselves busy with basic household chores. Children exceptionally are free-bird all round the seasons and in winter particularly they laze around basking in the warm winter sun.
However, for people of atleast six villages (3 in Minjay & 3 in Menbi Gewogs under Lhuentse Dzongkhag), commencing from this winter, their routine saw a paradigm change. Instead they are gainfully involved in processing the Himalayan Gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) fruits to be sold to generate income from Non-wood Forest Products existent in their locality. Such exploration of alternative avenues for the income generation through management and marketing of NWFP goes in perfect tune with the 10th FYP focus of reducing poverty.
But money never comes as an easy stuff. The Amla fruits had to be processed through numerous stages before they are finally ready to be sold. This includes harvesting from the wild by collecting all the fruits leaving behind atleast 10% of the total fruiting on the tree. This should serve as seeds for regeneration therefore ensuring sustainability of the desired trees in the forest. The fruits once transported and piled in the agreed spot is sorted and graded in their specific sizes. This is done to make the pounding convenient. Sorting or grading activity also simultaneously takes care of cleaning and removal of damaged fruits and other stuffs which comes with the fruits.
Water is referred to as universal cleansing agent. Hence, the fruits before boiling are thoroughly washed and rinsed to get rid of all dirts and impurities. Sanitation is given highest impetus during the processing since the end-products are used as major ingredients in traditional medicines, incense making, cosmetics and other consumables. Fruits boiled in recommended time-frame are pounded on the deseeding table by wooden tongs in such right force as to break open the fruits to reveal the seeds inside.
The deseeding or removal of seeds is done before finally sent out to be dried in the direct sun or drying machine for minimum of 22 hours. For the start, the National Post Harvest Centre in Paro provided the groups with Drying Machine each. The product is not yet ready for disposal until it is weighed and packaged properly with correct label.
The Shingmen Phuensum Tshogpa consisting of 42 h/hs of Menbi and Lekpachu Shingmen Namrup Tshogpa which composed of 28 H/hs collected 1889 kgs of fresh Amla fruits in the first day of commencing of Amla processing. The beneficiaries of the groups are currently fully engrossed in processing of the fruits.
The formation of such NWFP groups is initiated by Dzongkhag Forestry Sector, facilitatation and technical support rendered by Social Forestry Division, Department of Forest & Park Services, Thimphu and Regional Agriculture Marketing & Co-operatives in Mongar. The funding for the initiatives is provided by the SNV – Netherland Development Organization, Thimphu.