The Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia) is a fiber yielding non-timber forest product that has cultural, economic and medicinal values to many ethnic communities residing in the hill and mountain areas of Nepal. If the nettle value chain can be strengthened at each node of the chain, then it has high potentiality to uplifting the livelihoods of many poor households in those areas. With this objective, the Himalayan nettle value chain development interventions in the form of promotion of local institutions, enterprise development, product value addition and development, capacity building at the community level and promotion of linkages through private sector engagement are initiated in Darchula, one of the remote districts in far-western Nepal. The impact of Himalayan nettle value chain development interventions on households’ income from the sale of nettle products can go a long way in mitigating the poverty of remote mountain communities of Nepal Himalayas. Using propensity score matching (PSM) technique in a cross-sectional data, it was discovered that participation in the Himalayan nettle value chain development intervention has positive and significant impact on the households’ annual income from the sale of nettle products. Capacity building and facilitation activities on product development and market linkages are important to help increase productivity and decrease per unit production cost of non-timber forest products like the Himalayan nettle. Value chain development and concentrated market linkages are hence essential to diversify livelihood options for natural resource dependent rural communities.
The Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia) grows from eastern to western region between the altitudes of 1,200 to 3,000 m. Fiber is present in the inner bark of the stalk with high strength and length. The fiber is considered superior to jute and is useful for mixing with wool and cotton. It has cultural, economic and medicinal values for many ethnic communities like Rai, Gurung, Sherpa and others living in the mountain areas of Nepal and India. The hilly residents and ethnic minorities have extracted the nettle bark for centuries to produce various items such as bags, porter’s head bands or straps, ropes, mats and coarse clothing, among others. Different parts of the nettle plant are traditionally utilized as medicine. The Himalayan nettle products have both national and international markets values. In Nepal, people have tried to commercialize the fibre and develop high end products from apparels to home décor items. However, due to poor processing, packaging and standardization, its full potentiality is yet to be realized.
Mt. Everest Forest Botanicals Alliance has partnered with the indigeneous communities of Darchula district under MEFBA value chain development intervention and have collaborated for setting up SME Projects including tying up with markets in Kathmandu and overseas.
MEFBA provides technical support, capacity building, market tie-ups, and a host of engaging deliverables creating impact grassroots SME intervention on Allo (Himalayan Nettle Fibre).
The allo value chain development in MEFBA partner projects demonstrated a successful model for women’s empowerment through collective action. Local women have become active members of the allo enterprise and are increasing financial security at the household level by selling allo products in different forms. The project identified good practices using environmentally friendly and energy-efficient technologies and methods that minimize the use of external inputs such as chemicals and fuelwood. The MEFBA allo projects have produced the following impacts, the scalability is to be replicated to achieve an outcome that will not only help in the sustainability of the environment but will also create livelihoods in the areas that lack physical infrastructure.
- An orchestrated effort targeting training, skills development, exposure visits, and women’s active participation is important for promoting inclusive development of a value chain.
- Enterprises based on natural resources like allo require sound ecosystem management to ensure sustainability.
- Partnership with a private-sector entity that considers social and environmental values, as well as economic gains, is key for value chain promotion in a remote landscape.
- Mobilise, organise, motivate and train women, dalits and and other weaker sections communities into cooperative societies for producing and marketing allo fibres and finished hand-crafted products.