Cardamom production and the “good life”: agricultural and social change in East Nepal

Matthys, Marie-Luise (17 July 2019). Cardamom production and the “good life”: agricultural and social change in East Nepal (Unpublished). In: International Convention of Asia Scholars. Leiden, Netherlands. July 2019.

What is a "good life"? In countless writings, Eastern and Western thinkers alike have dwelled on this fundamental philosophical question. Through implementing development policies, governments aim at making their citizens’ lives better, thereby implicitly defining what a good life is. In everyday practices, citizens enact their own modes of life, each person holding an individual perspective of what makes one’s life good. This research is about the interplay of philosophy, agricultural policy, and rural people’s practical understandings of the “good life” in the context of agricultural development. About a decade ago, farmers in East Nepal started taking up cardamom production, an agricultural development strategy supported by the Nepalese government. Today, cardamom is the major income source in the region, and lives are changing. Is this development fostering “good lives”, according to the rural population? Preliminary findings suggest that for the majority of respondents a “good life” is a life with good family relations, basic needs covered, few hardships, substantive individual freedoms, as well as “sukha”, i.e. peace of mind or happiness. Respondents argue that cardamom production contributes to this kind of good life because its production requires less physical effort and yields more income than previous crops. However, these benefits are by far not distributed equally, and respondents are worried about the spreading of plant diseases which jeopardise sustainability. Most strikingly, so far not a single respondent wanted their children to become farmers: eventually, a “good life” is the life of an employee residing in town.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


09 Interdisciplinary Units > Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies (ICFG)

Graduate School:

Graduate School Gender Studies

UniBE Contributor:

Matthys, Marie-Luise


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Marie-Luise Matthys

Date Deposited:

10 Mar 2020 13:08

Last Modified:

10 Mar 2020 13:08


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