Large cardamom farming in changing climatic and socioeconomic conditions in the Sikkim himalayas
Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum) is an important cash crop and livelihood option for people in Sikkim. This high-value, minimally labour-intensive, and non-perishable crop is cultivated as an understory perennial crop in association with Himalayan alder (Alnus nepalensis) and other forest tree species that provide shade. It is cultivated in all districts at an altitude of 600-2,400 masl. Of the total 111,830 households in Sikkim, 16,037 (14.34%) have large cardamom plantations on their farms. In 1997, a study conducted by the ICIMOD revealed the ecological and economic importance of large cardamom to mountain farmers in the Sikkim Himalayas, estimating the contribution of this crop to household cash income at 45% in the case of small farmers (with up to 2 hectares of land) and 54% for large farmers (with more than 2 hectares of land) (Sharma and Sharma 1997). Many changes have taken place since then, including changes in land use patterns, socioeconomic conditions, and climate. The present study was carried out to analyze how these changes have affected large cardamom farming in Sikkim and the dependence of mountain farmers on this crop. This study particularly looked at the changes in large cardamom farming, the causes of such changes, and their impact on the household economy and livelihoods. It also examined the role of beekeeping with the indigenous honeybee (Apis cerana) in cardamom pollination in six large cardamom-growing areas in East, South and West Sikkim.