Women in Value Chain of Cardamom in Eastern Nepal: reflections on challenges and opportunities in the current context

By Bishnu Raj Upreti and Sharmila Shivakoti,

NCCR in collaboration with the Department of Development Studies (DDS), School of Arts (SoA) of Kathmandu University is conducting Nepal component of long term research project entitled: Feminization, Agricultural Transition, and Rural Employment (FATE), which is a 6 Years Research progrmme funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Swiss agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and led by the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) and Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies (ICFG) of the University of Bern, Switzerland.

FATE Workshop(16-25Jan16) (38)

Field visit in the cardamom farm, January 2017

In the first stage of the research project, NCCR examined the production part of the value chain, impacts of cash crops (cardamom and ginger) in empowerment of women and their engagement in socio-political spheres. Findings of the first stage of study provided basis for the Nepal Team to explore further focusing to post-production (processing, marketing and consumption) part of the cash crops value chain.  Hence, since January 2017, FATE Nepal team started exploring the dynamics of post production (processing, marketing and consumption) part of the cardamom value chain.


Figure 1

Cardamom value chain, MSFP, 2014

The figure above represents the value chain map of cardamom. A value chain process of cardamom involves preparation of land, plantation and weeding, watering the plants, harvesting and picking ripe cardamom fruits, separating it from flowers, drying the cardamom, cutting the tail of the dried cardamom and finally taking it to the market (KC, Upreti and Subedi 2016). There are various actors’ involved in the process who have different roles and functions. The primary actors of cardamom value chain include farmers or collectors. The village or district level traders buy from farmers and sell it at the regional traders/markets. Then it is exported to India (MFSP 2014).

Value chain analysis can become a tool for addressing gender inequities. Participation of women in cardamom value chains can be beneficial if they have power over resources and decision-making. Hence, it is directly related to the economic empowerment of women. Women can benefit from the cardamom value chain only when they have power over division on labour, income, ownership, sale and use of earnings form cardamom.

all activitiesin 1 phot

Different steps of cardamom production

The study of FATE Nepal team focusing to the Cardamom Value Chain in the past 5 months brings some interesting preliminary issues to be examined further in the coming years. They are:

  • Cardamom transaction requires relatively large amount of money and often male members deal on it because of less engagement of women in financial dealing with the producers, regional and Indian traders. Hence, often these marketing related functions are done by male member of their family.
  • Compared to male members, women lack access to cardamom market related knowledge and latest price related information compared to their male counter parts.
  • Often male members of their family carry out the transportation, and sales of cardamom at secondary markets mainly because of the perceived and or actual lack of information and knowledge and some time confidence of women in cardamom marketing.
  • The respondent cardamom traders from Taplejung, Panchthar and Ilam said to us that women face constraints such as difficulty to free movement (as often negotiation happens outside their local area and odd times, difficult to access market infrastructure), which hinder for women to enter in cardamom export market;
  • Cardamom related education, knowledge and information is not easily accessible to women of remote rural areas that disfavor women to influence cardamom marketing.
  • Particularly at high castes groups, women somehow still face cultural barriers that exclude them from actively engage in price negotiation, visiting Birtamod and beyond and dealing with Indian traders.

Based on the synthesis of the previous studies and summarizing the specific responses of the respondents during our field visit of Jhapa (Birtamod), Ilam (Ilam municipality), Phidim (Phidim municipality) and Taplejung district (25-30 May 2017); we reach the following general conclusions:

  • Even though women have played equal and sometimes even more roles in the production part of the cardamom value chain in study area, their engagement in post-production value chin is minimum and constrained by several cultural, economic and other barriers,
  • Male members of family engaged in cardamom price negotiation form their homes often did not view any problem even when women are not engaged in cardamom processing and marketing. Rather they are happy when women are not engaged as they are not confident to the ability of women members on better price negotiation and market information. So, it is quite strong barrier.
  • In order to improve the role of women in the value chain process, special provisions related to access to information for market decision-making.
  • Access to information and technology is one of the major requirements for improving the role of women in the value chain process. Women must be provided with training especially in the marketing. This will not only help them contribute in the value chain process but also strengthen their negotiation capacity.
  • Though cardamom has contributed socio-economic empowerment of women, ensuring their active engagement in post-production cardamom value chain is major challenge.
  • It is yet to explore the state of collective and individual forms of engagement of women in shaping the value chain beyond immediate production of cardamom.
  • Assessing gains and risks for women in value chain is therefore important to reach to conclusion whether women get benefit
  • Equally important is to examine the roles of different organizations such as women’s groups, cooperatives, farmers groups and institutions such as norms, values, rules, in shaping cardamom
  • In general farmers growing cardamom are getting more profit than any other other farmers. But poor women are benefiting less from cardamom as they have less cardamom growing land. But women form the richer household having more suitable land for cardamom are benefiting from the earning of cardamom, even when they are not meaningfully engage in the marketing of cardamom.
  • Farmers are still practicing traditional farming of cardamom. As they are not providing special care and management of cardamom (cleaning, weeding, irrigating, crop rotation, better husbandry practices) they are not getting full benefits from it. Recently, some small holders have started scientific production of cardamom but the rich farmers with hundreds of ropani of cardamom farming are still applying traditional practices and therefore not able to get the higher benefit.
  • Majority of farmers are not able to utilize the facilities available at the government offices mainly because of slow, top-down and complicated approach/procedures of government.
  • Nepali engaged in cardamom business are entirely dependent on Indian traders and even the Indian are labeling Nepali cardamom as their product and exporting.
  • Modern processing, grading and storage can value add to the cardamom which is largely lacking
  • The government response to needed policy and regulatory provisions are too slow and administrative value chain.


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