Members’ Voices: Organic World and Fair Future (OWF), Nepal – Ashmita Lama


I can remember being a child playing in the mountains: picking wild orchids for my hair, swimming in a stream, climbing trees to pick berries. What I know now, but did not then, is that mountains are the base of our livelihoods and natural heritage.

I have devoted my life to working for the protection of these fresh, clean environments. I have worked with Organic World and Fair Future (OWF), an eco-social company in Nepal, for the past five years. We employ an inclusive business approach in pro-poor value chain development of organic products from smallholder mountain farmers. Our mission is to provide customers with high quality organic products and contribute to the social, environmental and economic sustainability of these communities.

OWF is a member of the Fair Trade Group Nepal, the Nepal Permaculture Group, and has been a Mountain Partnership (MP) member for two years. We have been continually recognized as a driver of prosperity; the Government of Nepal ranked the OWF among the country’s top model industries.

Throughout my five years with OWF, I have served in a variety of roles. Currently, I am a value chain officer. Our organization is a crucial link between small-scale, organic mountain farmers and the market.

We have benefitted 3 500 peoples, more than 60 percent of whom are women. We have provided these people with the means to be self-employed, re-enroll children in school, increase food security and afford healthcare.

A current negative trend we are attempting to address is the small variety of products which has, in many cases, distorted the value chain. Nepal’s agriculture is shifting toward a mono-agriculture system with chemical inputs, slowly replacing traditional farming. Consequently, many traditional local varieties of crops have been lost and those remaining are on the verge of extinction. The fragile mountain ecosystem has been threatened by this alarming trend, in addition to the negative effects of climate change. We have seen decreased productivity, degraded soil and the loss of many indigenous plant varieties. These circumstances pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of local indigenous peoples.

The value chain of our producers is also challenged by lack of quality assurance, inadequate technologies, lack of market demand and gender inequality, among others. In an effort to remedy some of these problems, I have been implementing the Mountain Partnership Product (MPP) initiative, which intends to strengthen the value chain, improving the link between remote mountain farmers and consumers. My main role in this effort has been to strengthen the relationship between the market and small-scale farmers, producers and processors: particularly those involved in the creation of heritage products like Jumli mixed beans and Himali black lentils. My work for this initiative has been highly rewarding, and was benefitted by attending the MP GROW Summer School course. The GROW course has proven to be highly applicable to my work on value chains and the new MP Mountain Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) Network.

The MPP label has allowed us to battle fake products, conserve traditional crops and prove these products’ value to the local community. We have seen increased demand and production, and the mainstreaming of mountain products into domestic and international value chains.

In addition, we are collaborating with Mountain Partnership Secretariat (MPS), the Government of Nepal and other local relevant organizations to establish, promote and support a global Mountain PGS. OWF participated in the MP PGS Workshop in India in April 2019, which led to the Ranikhet Declaration. The PGS embraces environmentally and ethically sound value chain approaches for the promotion of high quality mountain products to strengthen the resilience of mountain peoples.

The stream I once swam in as a child is now too shallow to enjoy. Besides depleting water resources, I have personally witnessed the loss of crop species, increased fluctuation in temperature, preseason flowering and more. Climate change is having a real effect on mountain environments and communities, which is why my wish is for mountains’ originality to be restored, maintained and saved.

All of our lives depend on mountains; their richness enriches us. We must protect biodiversity, minimize our impact on these environments, practice sustainable farming and conserve the tradition of mountain communities.

News and photo from Ashmita Lama - OWF

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