With diseases and climate change taking a toll on the cardamom crop, the primitive tribal planters of the Arunamala tribal settlement in the Mepadi forest range in Wayanad are a worried lot.

With cardamom fetching good price in the market, a sharp fall in yield has come as heavy blow to them. The Arunamala tribal settlement is nearly six km from Kalladi, the nearest town, and one has to trek three hours through dense forests to reach there.

Here, 52 Kattunayakka families had been living for four generations cultivating cardamom on 69 hectares without any incentive of the government or private agencies.

The income they generated from their plantation had changed their ethnic lifestyle too. Many families are living in concrete houses and the use of mobile phone is common in the forest.

Each member of the settlement had been cultivating cardamom on three to five acres, getting an average yield of 70 to 100 kg of processed cardamom from an acre. “We were self-sufficient till 2008 owing to the better income generated from our plantations,” Chellan, the tribal chieftain told The Hindu.

“We even installed a small hydroelectric unit using the water from mountain springs during the monsoon season for producing electricity in the settlement.”