Strengthening the allo value chain in Khar VDC, Darchula, Nepal

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Allo (Girardinia diversifolia), or Himalayan nettle, is traditionally used in Nepal to make cloth. Its bark contains fibres that are strong and smooth, with a silky lustre. In 2014, the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI), under its livelihood component, identified the allo value chain in Khar VDC as an entry point for increasing the income of the poor through value addition, capacity building and forming market linkages. Allo grows abundantly in the forests around Khar VDC in Darchula, Nepal. Poor and landless Dalits are the primary group engaged in the collection and marketing of allo.

Before the project, communities mostly collected allo and sold it as a raw material to middlemen. The few making allo thread used traditional methods, which are labour and energy intensive and produce poor quality thread. Caustic soda was used to boil the thread, which took at least 6 hours and 240 kg of wood. Local tools such as the katuwa (hand spinner) are used and the thread produced is coarse and thick. The balls of thread produced in this way fetched around NPR 800 per kg and were used to make carpets.

A market study conducted in early 2014 revealed a high demand for thin and smooth thread for the fashion garment industry. Hence, the project aimed to uplift the allo thread value chain by improving the quality of the thread so that it could be used for fabric. The initiative mobilised grass-root farmers’ groups, such as the Khar allo processor group, which started with about 20 founding members, of which 70% were women. The group received capacity building training on the benefits of collective action, as well as training on leadership and saving and credit schemes. This was followed by rigorous training on allo processing and thread making. The interventions also had a pro-poor and gender focus. 

By 2015 March, the group was happy with the thread they were producing. Soaking it the night before made it easier to boil the next day. They used ash instead of caustic soda, which made the thread look cleaner and whiter. Proper washing and spinning techniques made the thread smooth and thin. Rocket stove technology was introduced, which uses almost three times less fuelwool and takes half the time to boil the bark. Today the group is selling allo thread at NPR 1,100 per kilo, an increase of NPR 300 per kilo (27%). The intervention addressed KLSCDI’s Nepal target output: to strengthen pro-poor and inclusive value chains addressing income improvement, climate change adaptation, and water and energy management in other to cater to the overall project’s outcome that livelihoods and ecosystems management are improved in a sustainable and equitable manner in selected areas of the Kailash Sacred Landscape Region. 

Now the project is looking at ways to increase the volume of allo thread produced and the number of beneficiaries, as well as making a finished product like a yarn or woven shawls.