Using Allo to transform local economies and build climate resilience in Nepal
Allo, Himalayan nettle (Girardiniadiversifolia) is a plant that grows abundantly without cultivation in the hilly and mountainous regions of Nepal as well as India, China, Bhutan. It holds great cultural and economic significance to the mountain communities in the region. Commonly referred to asAlloin Nepali, it has been harvested in the region for a long time and is a major source of income and sustenance for the people. However, although the plant is widely available, local people in the resource rich region have limited knowledge and awareness about the possibilities of developing sustainable Allo-based enterprises. This solution focuses on mainstreaming Alloby creating a viable, commercial value chain which will in turn increase the region’s resilience to climate change.
The sacred Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar are major attractions for millions of people from across the world. The landscape comprises a wide range of biophysical and sociocultural systems and is amongst the world’s most biologically rich, fragile, and diverse environments. The region and its people are highly vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation and threats associated with ongoing globalization processes and accelerated development. Strategies to address the conservation and development of the landscape are needed as this diverse, multicultural and transboundary region has always been seen as a gateway to boundless opportunities by the people of the region.
Allofiber has high economic value as it is considered superior to jute. Parts of the plant such as roots, stems, leaves, and inflorescence can also be used to prepare traditional medicinal formulations to treat various diseases and ailments.A value chain is a process that adds value to raw materials such asAllo– the plants are transformed into high-value sellable goods such as bags or clothes.There is a need to set up a production hub and partner with organizations that can sell the products and fetch good prices for the farmers.
- Implementation sites:
- Multiple countries
- Multiple locations
- Mountain region:
- Darchula District
- Site locations:
Naugad Rural Municipality
- Solution scale:
- Sub-national / Regional
- Ecosystem type(s):
- Agricultural land
- Solution type(s):
- Land use practice
- Human Health & Wellbeing
- Tourism & Consumption
- Climate impact(s) addressed:
- Impact time-scales:
- Slow Onset
- Economic benefits (e.g. job creation
- Climate risk reduction (e.g. reduced risk from floods)
- health and well-being)
- inclusiveness and equity
- Social benefits (e.g. poverty reduction
- Implementation timeline:
- 2014 - 2017
- Sendai targets:
Main beneficiaries & outcomes
The intervention has led to increased efficiency and innovation at the local level – there’s now sustainable income for many families. The intervention has also increased women’s influence in the community. Naugad Rural Municipality is a typical mountain village inhabited mostly by indigenous groups including Brahmin, Chettri, Dalit, Thakuri, Byansi, Sanyasi, and Saukas. Dalits have been traditionally considered the most marginalized group. Most women from such marginalized groups are involved in household activities that do not earn money. However, there has been increasing acceptance of women and Dalit leadership since the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) and these groups are now seen as important actors in the value chain. Additionally, the quality and range of Allo products have also increased, opening a greater possibility of value addition, as well as additional income for the entire community.
Apart from a significant increase in income, solely from the sale of Allo thread, additional revenue is also generated from bags, cushion covers, hats, scarves, and coats, which the common facility center (CFC) sells to SABAH Nepal at a premium price. These products are sold in Kathmandu and in the international market. The CFC also trades a range of products such as beans, ghee, rice, and medicinal herbs to SABAH Nepal and to other local and regional traders.
In addition to building sustainable Allo businesses in the area, the intervention will also help minimize the effects of climate change and build resilience with:
- a nursery of plants for resource sustainability
- rainwater harvesting and planting trees for water conservation
- use of improved cooking stoves for efficient energy supply
- the introduction of drought-resistant crop species
Planning and implementation
The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) selected Naugad Rural Municipality, located in the remotest far western part of Nepal, as a pilot site for developing of a value chain for Allo with the aim of providing an alternative income for people in the local community. Housed in the Api-Nampa Conservation Area (ANCA), Naugad is characterized by poor accessibility, limited economic opportunities, high outmigration, with women and marginalized communities held back on socio economic issues and choices.
For KSL-Nepal, Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE) was the nodal agency with RECAST as the implementing agency, while ICIMOD provided technical and financial support. Introducing a private sector agency, the SAARC Business Association of Home-Based Workers (SABAH) Nepal, as an implementing body in 2015 played an important role in completing the value chain through creating market links for Allo products developed as part of the value chain.
SABAH helped ICIMOD establish a community-owned Common Facility Centre (CFC) in Naugad, which apart from working as a production hub also nurtured women-owned enterprises at different nodes of the value chain. This is done by providing women with learning opportunities in cities in India and Nepal, and facilitating the many processes in the value chain. As of 2018, 84 people worked as active members of the CFC, of which over 75% were women.
In 2014, KSLCDI conducted a value chain assessment to identify potential value chains adhering to criteria for environmental conservation and sustainable development. Following a series of stakeholder workshops with community members and local authorities, Allo was selected as a product for promotion. The main reasons for choosing Allo were:
- Growth potential and high availability of Allo in the landscape.
- Allo is a mountain-specific, non-perishable, high-value, low-volume product.
- Offers a convergence opportunity with a government scheme.
- Opportunities to engage women, marginal groups (Dalits), local youths and entrepreneurs.
- Possibility of scaling out at the transboundary scale.
Greening the Allo value chain:
A major focus of KLSCDI is to generate knowledge and awareness on how a value chain contributes to the environment at each node of the chain. Adopting water- and energy-smart technologies, which are more resilient in the face of climate change, was therefore a priority and interventions were sensitive to the use of natural resources. The value addition process also considered impact on the environment and the natural habitat to optimize economic and social outcomes within a closed-loop system.
In order to ensure better communication on greening of the Allo value chain, a pictorial manual has been published by the KSLCDI team. The main objective behind producing this manual was to help the community understand different dynamics of the value chain process. The manual presents concepts in simple, pictorial forms and can be easily used by community member who cannot read or write.
This solution was innovating in that it sought to develop high value niche products and promote heritage tourism, whilst also contributing to livelihoods and environmental sustainability. By using water- and energy-smart practices to grow Allo and develop products, it diversified income opportunities and fostered resilience to future impacts of climate change. Women were also given opportunities to lead in the Allo value chain, helping to shift cultural norms on gender roles in the region.
Capacities for design and implementation
The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) has succeeded in building the capacity of common facility center members through providing over twelve training programmes on various aspects of skill and leadership development. There was also a particular focus on providing training for women to strengthen their leadership in the value chain activities. Furthermore, training was provided to community members on entrepreneurship and financial literacy. This helped the local economy, strengthened the value chain and strengthened the supply chain, creating a win-win situation for community, SABAH and KSLCDI.
Various capacity development activities were conducted to strengthen local institutions. To understand the need for a local institution, exposure visits of group leaders and key members were organized to Kathmandu to help them understand the need. Training, such as bookkeeping and organization management and leadership development was provided. Enterprise development training and business plan development for the CFC were also supported to help members understand the market and business perspectives.
Local communities and authority members helped identify Allo as the product to focus on and promote at the start of the project. This was achieved by holding a series of stakeholder workshops to discuss potential value chains that adhere to criteria for environmental conservation and sustainable development.
Outlook & Scalability
Barriers and adverse effects
There were some challenges in developing the Allo value chain in Darchula, which present learning opportunities for the project:
- Remoteness and social barriers: The value chain was not created overnight and required long planning and an investment of time and in capacity building in the remote mountain village of Naugad Rural Municipality. It takes time to understand the culture and group values and norms of disadvantaged people to gradually shape new values and prepare them for market engagement.
- Ensuring buy-in from partners: This project was able to bring together three partners, the government, research institutions, and the community into one platform and work together. However, the lead implementers had mandates focused on regulation (MoFE) and academic research (RECAST). Capacities to deliver market structures and enterprises was limited. Hence, much time was spent on resource identification, feasibility assessments and awareness training.
- Bringing the private sector on board: Promotion of value chains and enterprise are domains of the private sectors. However, developing partnership with private sector such as SABAH Nepal was relatively slow due to government process and also low motivation of private entities to invest in remote areas, where access and markets are major challenge.
- Time and budget issues: Most projects are time bound and short term with expectations of quick outcomes, which is difficult in the mountains as more time is required for non-market activities before market-related activities can commence. The time available for implementation of the field work was therefore not long enough to deliver the desired outputs especially at a transboundary scale, which takes more time and effort.
Potential for upscaling and replication
The Kailash Sacred Landscape’s global and regional significance and its transboundary nature call for cross-border cooperation among countries that share the same landscape. All three member countries have endorsed the regional cooperation framework, a guiding instrument for developing and implementing the KSL regional programme. The framework brings partner institutions together under the shared vision of a long-term conservation and development initiative based on regional transboundary cooperation. One approach our partners used was the creation of the allo value chain to foster development of livelihood activities from farm and non-farm sectors while integrating ecosystem management and efficient use of natural resources including water and energy.
Further helping to upscale and improve the solution, exposure visits and training events for value chain promotion were organized between India and Nepal. Participants from India came to Nepal to learn about chiuri oil and its use, its merits and demerits and making new products. From Nepal, farmers went to SEWA India to learn about marketing, product development, collective marketing, and enterprise development.
Suggested citation for the report:
Shrestha, A.J., Adhikari, L., Amatya, R., Subedee, B. & Dorji, T. (2018). Allo value chain in Darchula, Nepal: Process documentation. ICIMOD Working Paper 2018/9. Kathmandu: ICIMOD.
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