Assam: The Queen of “King Chillies”
Entrepreneur Jornali S Hazarika is a resident of the remote village Moilapung in Tinsukia district.

Jornali Saikia Hazarika shares an interesting anecdote about ‘King Chilli,’ also known by other suitable monikers such as Naga Chilli and Bhoot Jolokia (Bhoot meaning Ghost and Jolokia meaning Chilli). She explains, “If you eat a whole Bhoot Jolokia, you will start seeing ghosts; hence the name.”

Jornali, a resident of the remote village Moilapung in Tinsukia district, Assam, is now renowned for her skill in cultivating this prized spice on a large scale. One of the world’s hottest chillies, it has traditionally been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. In fact, King Chilli is an integral part of Northeast Indian cuisine.

As a sharp entrepreneur, Jornali recognised the potential for growing King Chilli on a larger scale after attending a training programme organised by SeSTA. She recalls, “We were exploring various cash crops and the types of soil best suited for different agricultural commodities. It then struck me that there was a high demand for King Chilli, but production had never been able to match it. There was also a shortage of quality saplings for farmers to expand production.” Over the past couple of years, the demand has increased both locally and from national and international markets. With its pungency and unique aroma, King Chilli has found its place on kitchen shelves in many new households.

“Instead of growing King Chilli solely for personal consumption, I expanded the cultivation area to an acre for commercial purposes. I made a profit of more than two lakh rupees.” Importantly, as she acquired new skills, she began cultivating King Chilli using organic agricultural practices. “The reason is that the pungency and strong aroma are retained only when organic inputs are used. King Chilli can also be delicate, and if inorganic inputs are used, it withers easily during adverse weather conditions.”

As a Krishi Sakhi promoted by SeSTA, Jornali has not only trained other women farmers to cultivate King Chilli but has also inspired them to scale up their efforts to earn better livelihoods. “This can be a source of income for women,” she says with a smile. In the past year, this savvy entrepreneur has also started a nursery to meet the growing demand for King Chilli saplings. Farmers from far and wide come to her village to purchase the saplings, and she also sells them in the weekly market.

“I earn by selling the saplings, and I also help other farmers expand their cultivation areas.” Recognising her efforts, the Assam State government awarded her the title of the best Krishi Sakhi.

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“We are now a group of 50 women in our village cultivating King Chilli. We can come together to make pickles and powder, which have a high market demand.” Rita Hazarika, her neighbor, says, “Jornali’s chilli nursery has changed the mindset of many farmers in our village. We now aspire not only to sell raw King Chilli but also to turn it into exotic finished products. We needed someone to show us the way, and Jornali has been our guiding star.” Jornali smiles and nods in contentment—the confident nod of an entrepreneur who has already brought about a change in the village’s livelihood landscape. At this, Rita laughs and says, “Ask anyone in the village about the home of King Chilli, and there is only one direction they will point to.” “One day, our village will be known worldwide as the King Chilli village,” Jornali boldly declares. She is truly the Queen of “King Chillies”!

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