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Mr. ML Jayaswal
Ban Udyam-BSP/New ERA, Kathmandu


Nepal is rich in biodiversity, having about 7000 species of higher plants with about 700 medicinal herbs including about 250 indigenous species. The estimates indicate that NTFPs worth up to US$26.5 million are traded annually from Nepal. The Environment and Forest Enterprise Activity (EFEA) is one of the forestry projects that supports the rural community in NTFP-based small enterprise development in a region of Nepal from where the annual trade of NTFPs is worth US$4.08 million. Among many, the prioritised NTFPs for enterprise development are Nardostachys grandiflora D.C., Valeriana jatamansi jones, Picrorhiza scrophulariflora Pennell, Swertia chiraita (Roxb. Ex Flem, Karst), Morchella conica, Zanthoxylum armatum D.C., Cinnamomum tamala (Buch-Ham), Sapindus mukorossi Gaertn, Delphinium himalayai Munz., Eulaliopsis binata, and Shorea robusta. Some of the lessons learned are: the rural people, particularly women, have a great potential for organising themselves for income generating activities such as rope making from Eulaliopsis binata and plate making from the leaves of Shorea robusta; the local community plays vital role in the conservation of wild species once they are aware of their importance; and resourceful remote areas having high value NTFPs can do value addition for better income and improved livelihood with initial technical support.


Although the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal is a small country, with an area of 147 181 square kilometres and 18 491 097 inhabitants (1991 census), it has unique geography. The altitudinal variation in a span of only 193 km mean width (north to south) is from 305 meters to 8848 meters above mean sea level (amsl). This uniqueness has made Nepal a land of rich bio-diversity that hosts a wide range of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). The NTFP trade has been a traditional practice in Nepal and the rural people of the hill and mountain regions have been involved in the collection and sales of NTFPs since time immemorial.

There are several factors threatening the survival of some species and reducing the quality of many NTFPs, such as unsustainable harvesting, population pressure, increasing and expanding markets and cash needs.

Nepal has a natural gift of over 7000 species of higher plants out of which there are over 700 species of medicinal herbs and about 250 species are endemic to the country (NTFP workshop proceeding, 1999).

The estimated value of the annual harvest and trade of commercial NTFPs from forests and pastures of Nepal to India is US$26.5 million (NTFP Workshop Proceedings 1999).

There are different projects being implemented in different parts of Nepal. One of these, the Environment and Forest Enterprise Activity (EFEA), is involved in developing the NTFP-based enterprises while giving equal importance to the conservation aspect. The discussions in this paper are based on the work experiences of EFEA.

The Environment and Forest Enterprise Activity (EFEA) Project

This project is funded by USAID/N and implemented by His Majesty's Government of Nepal (HMG/N) in eight districts (Dang, Salyan, Pyuthan, Rukum, Rolpa, Dolpa, Banke and Bardia) of the Mid-Western Development Region. The goal of EFEA is to increase rural household income through sustainable forest management and forest-based enterprises. The Forest-based Micro-enterprise Development (FBMED) component of EFEA is called “Ban Udyam” (BU) in Nepali and technical assistance is provided jointly by the Biodiversity Support Program (BSP) of Washington DC, USA, and New ERA, Nepal. FBMED is concerned with NTFPs only. The area under EFEA-Ban Udyam covers all three ecological regions having different altitudes (the terai, including the Siwaliks at <600 meters, the mid-hills at 600–2000 meters, and the high mountains at 2000–4500 meters.

Ban Udyam's twin goals are enhanced livelihoods and improved forest management.

Ban Udyam accomplishes its goals in two ways:

The contribution of this project area to the national trade of NTFPs is quite considerable, US$4.08 million (EFEA annual report 1997/98). There are many NTFPs found in this area.

Two studies have been conducted by Ban Udyam to identify the potential NTFPs in the EFEA area, based on which NTFPs based enterprises could be developed. These studies are “Forest Products Market/Enterprise Options Study in EFEA Area 1997” and “Situation Analysis in Banke and Bardia districts of EFEA Area, 1998”. The studies identified the following NTFPs having potential for enterprise development.

NTFPs of EFEA Area with Potential for Enterprise Development

S.N.Local NameScientific Name
1JatamansiNardostachys grandiflora D.C.
2SugandhawalValeriana jatamansi jones
3KutkiPicrorhiza scrophulariflora Pennell
4ChiraitoSwertia chiraita (Roxb. Ex Flem, Karst)
5GuchichyauMorchella conica
6TimurZanthoxylum armatum D.C.
7DalchiniCinnamomum tamala (Buch.-Ham)
8RitthaSapindus mukorossi Gaertn.
9AtisDelphinium himalayai Munz.
10PiplaPiper longum Linn.
11BetCalamus tenuis
12ShikakaiAcacia concinna (Wild) D.C.
13NeemAzadirachta indica A. Juss.
14AmalaPhyllanthus emblica L.
15BarroTerminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb.
16HarroTerminalia chebula Retz.
17TenduDiospyros tomentosa Roxb.
18SatawariAsparagus racemosus Wild.
19Sabai GrassEulaliopsis binata
20Sal leavesShorea robusta

Out of this list of potential NTFPs, the following nine species were identified as having the most potential:

1.JatamansiNardostachys grandiflora D.C.
2.SugandhawalValeriana jatamansi jones
3.KutkiPicrorhiza scrophulariflora Pennell
4.ChiraitoSwertia chiraita (Roxb. Ex Flem, Karst)
5.GuchichyauMorchella conica
6.TimurZanthoxylum armatum D.C.
7.DalchiniCinnamomum tamala (Buch.-Ham)
8.RitthaSapindus mukorossi Gaertn.
9.AtisDelphinium himalayai Munz.

In addition to these potential NTFPs, the Sabai grass (Eulaliopsis binata) and sal (Shorea robusta) leaves were also identified during the community forest users group (CFUG) workshop as potential items for small scale enterprises.

Lessons Learned

NTFP-based enterprise development is a feasible as well as a desirable strategy for increasing rural incomes from community forestry. In order to have NTFP-based enterprise development, sustainable community forest management incorporating the conservation and commercial utilization of potential products (NTFPs) is necessary as a pre-condition.

Some of the lessons learned during the last four years of work (1996/97 – 1999/2000) are as follows:

1. Small Scale Enterprise Based on Sabai grass (Eulaliopsis binata)

The potential of the self-organizing strength of rural women can be enhanced with an awareness program and preliminary technical support for their confidence building.

This grass is found in its wild form in the forests of the terai and mid-hills. The most important use of this grass is to make ropes for domestic purposes. In the rural areas where thatch houses are pre-dominant, this rope is extensively used in tying roofs, walls, and fences, as well as in making cots and bullock carts. In the EFEA-Ban Udyam project area this practice is very common, particularly with Tharu (an indigenous ethnic and disadvantaged group of Nepal) community, which constitutes a considerably high proportion of households in the project area, particularly in Dang, Banke and Bardia districts.

The traditional practice of making ropes from this grass is by hand, which takes a lot of time and is hard on the hands. Realising this fact, a group of twelve Tharu women is supported by the project to make ropes by a small, manually operated machine which costs less than US $70. The maintenance of this machine is simple and the local women can do it by themselves. This women's group is running this activity as a small-scale enterprise in their village. The following benefits have been realised by the community people:

2. Small Scale Enterprise Based on Sal (Shorea robusta) Leaves

Communities have potential to organize themselves for managing and utilizing their resources; they only need exposure and initial technical support. There is opportunity for the development worker to enrich forest management for economically viable NTFPs (even minor products such as sal leaves) while working with such groups to foster long-term objectives that meet self-defined progress and long-term bio-diversity conservation goals.

Nepalese forests of the tropical and sub-tropical belts have high quality Shorea robusta. A total of 233 698 hectares of this type of forest are handed over to the community as community forests where the community manages the forests and benefits from them. It is obvious that there will be ample amount of Sal leaves in these forests. There is a very high potential for making different types of plates from these leaves. The Nepalese commonly use these leaf plates on different occasions such as marriage parties (mostly in the rural areas), and rituals, worship ceremonies and festivals in both rural and urban areas. Some fast food service providers in the urban areas also use these plates. Presently most of these plates come to Nepal from India, at least in the bordering towns. (The Kantipur daily, July 18, 2000, reports that leaf plates worth about US$25,000 are imported annually to Nepalgunj from India) In the hills and mountains the people make them by hand as per their family requirements.

Since the raw material for this product is locally available in ample quantity, rural labour is only partially employed and capital requirement is also quite small, its production by manually operated machine was realised as an important intervention. Therefore, the EFEA-Ban Udyam project is supporting a women's group in producing and marketing the manually operated, machine-made leaf plates for rural income generation. Various benefits realised by the community people through this small-scale enterprise are:

3. Establishment of Distillation Plant for Aromatic Herbs in Dolpa (high mountain area)

Many high value NTFPs are naturally growing in the high altitudes of Nepal, but their sustainable commercial exploitation for the betterment of the local people is a recent realization although they have been utilized there for a long time.

The district of Dolpa is rich in medicinal and aromatic plants and people of this remote area have been collecting and selling various high-value NTFPs from natural resources. Most of these NTFPs are being exported in their raw form to other countries where they are processed for better market value. This fact initiated a need for the semi-processing/processing of these raw materials before export so that transportation costs are reduced and a higher margin of profit is retained in the local area.

Among the many types of NTFPs of this area, two (Nardostachys grandiflora D.C. and Valeriana jatamansi jones) were prioritised for the extraction of their aromatic oils. The priority was based on the following criteria:

This enterprise in the remote area of Dolpo is expected to have following impact:

4. Conservation of Natural Species, Pipala (Piper longum)

Even with very little intervention, an early recognizable income-based conservation approach is workable with communities, and this could be an entry point to foster long-term sustainable forest-based economic development.

There has been a hand over of the national forest to the community people for community management and use. The CFUG program was started in late seventies, and the latest available statistics show that 9061 CFUGs have been formed in the last two decades. A total of 657 864 hectares of forestland have been handed over to 9061 CFUGs having 1 008 237 beneficiary households. These forests are managed by the users as per the operational plan approved by HMG/N. For management purposes, cleaning, weeding, pruning, and thinning, etc., are common practices adopted by the CFUGs.

In the EFEA-Ban Udyam project area an interesting observation was made. During the cleaning process, the CFUG members would cut and throw the natural Piper longum plants (vines). The users did not know about the plant. They did not realise its important use as a medicine or as a food plant, nor did they realise its market value. Bio-diversity conservation being one of the objectives, the EFEA-Ban Udyam project started an awareness program on the use, protection and conservation of this species in community forests (CFs). The first program was started in Sishwara CF in Bardia district in 1998. Since realising the importance of this natural, high-value plant, forest users in this particular CF have created a pipala plot of 0.5 hectares inside a 45-hectare community forest. From this small area, they have been able to harvest 145 kg of pipala fruits worth NRs20,000 (local price) = US$275. The total value is not as important as the realisation of its importance and the conservation of this wild species.


Some of the major points to be mentioned in conclusion are:


Annual Progress Reports, 1997/98 and 1998/99. Environment and forest Enterprise Activity (EFEA), Tulsipur, Nepal.

Forest Product Market/Enterprise Options Study, 1997. BSP/New ERA, Kathmandu, Nepal.

FUG Database Record, April 03, 2000. MIS, Department of Forests, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Kantipur (daily newspaper) July 18, 2000. Kathmandu, Nepal.

Medicinal Plants of Nepal for Ayurvedic Drugs, 1995. Natural Products Development Division, Department of Plant Resources, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Nepal and the World, a Statistical Profile, 1997. FNCCI, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Outreach Publication, 1999–2000. EFEA-Ban Udyam, Tulsipur, Nepal.

Rawal, R.B. and Ashok Poudyal, 2000. Experiences of Ban Udyam in the Development of NTFP-Based Enterprises, Nepalgunj, Nepal.

Situation Analysis of Banke and Bardia Districts, 1999. A Forest Enterprise Development Perspective, BSP/New ERA, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Subedi, Ram Hari, 1999. Problems, Constraints and Opportunities to Sustainable Production and Collection and Trade of NTFPs in the Mid-Western Development Region of Nepal, in the workshop proceedings on Non-Timber Forest Products: Production Collection and Trade in the Mid-Western Development Region of Nepal, Nepalgunj, Nepal.

Workshop Proceedings, Non-Timber Forest Products: Production, Collection and Trade in the Mid-Western Development Region of Nepal, 1999. EFEA-Ban Udyam Project, Tulsipur, Nepal.

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