Prativa Pandey always dreamt of one day becoming a biological engineer. She fulfilled it by getting a degree in chemistry and mathematics from Northwestern University in the United States before doing her PhD in nanotechnology chemistry.
By 2015 she was working as a semiconductor scientist, and she decided to return to Nepal after the earthquake. But she had no idea what she would do next and she travelled all over the country trying to identify her next venture.
“I saw potential in medicinal herbs and plants. Although it had nothing to do with my studies, it is an important area but with little to no research,” says Pandey, who then started researching plants.
At the time, she was with the Research Institution for Bioscience and Biotechnology, to find ways to increase the value-added products of acidic fruits such as oranges, lemons, and jams.
When she heard about the OWSD fellowship, she sent her proposal which aimed to process waste citrus and turn them into cosmetic and medicinal products.
Pandey has three focus areas: extracting oil from the citrus waste, developing power and decomposing the bark for bacteria on the fruit, forming a basis for her research which will take place in Rupandehi, Palpa and Gulmi districts with their abundant citrus production.
After the project ends, she plans to use the waste to develop cosmetics for commercial sale and has in fact, already set up a company. She hopes she can source raw products domestically and for a country where farmers are unable to sell their produce in lack of transport or due to low market value, reusing them for value-added products can be a good alternative.