The group has Rs200,000 in savings after distributing rest of the sales money among the women since they started growing the herbs for oil eight years ago. Many of the families have their men folk working overseas or in the cities, but this income has given the women confidence and spending power.
The plantation site once used to be degraded and used for open grazing. The chair of the Federation of Community Forest User Groups of Nawalparasi West, Kamal Pariyar is also a member of the community forest and says the area has become healthier and greener with the cultivation of medicinal plants.
“The community forest had agreed to the proposal to cultivate herbs in order to empower women economically, but this has also allowed for natural regeneration in our forests,” Pariyar adds.
The community forest user group does not charge any fee from the women for cultivating herbs art the edge of the forest. Instead, in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Nepal (WCN), it has installed oil processing equipment and is helping market the herbal oils for export to Europe.
While Nepal’s community forestry program is widely acclaimed internationally for doubling Nepal’s forest cover in the past 25 years, WCN is adding value to that achievement. By supporting women’s enterprises in community forests in various parts of Nepal, it augments family income while increasing Nepal’s carbon sink capacity.
“Conservation alone is not enough, we should involve people in livelihood which is why we have launched a campaign to also engage them in economic activities,” says Sanjeevani Yonjan of WCN. “Often times we think of timber as the only forest product, but there are valuable herbs too which can be sustainably cultivated. We want to export Nepal’s forest products to the international market as a brand.”
The WCN has collaborated with companies to find a market for the herbal oil produced in Nawalparasi. In fact, Nepal-made oil is now sold throughout Europe, marketed as the Himalayan Biotrade brand.