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8 Jun 2016 | Livelihoods

Nepal’s Allo Value Chain Goes Green

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Improved cooking stove for women saving time and energy

More and more products and services today pass through a global value chain to reach consumers. The goal of optimising productivity at each level of the chain impacts natural resource use at different stages. Through value chain, resources begin, are transformed or used as inputs, and then return to the same natural environment for final disposal. Thus value chain sensitivity towards the use of natural resources and value addition should be evaluated with regard to environmental impacts. The development of green and greening value means optimising the economic and social outcomes within a closed loop system in an environmentally sustainable manner. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and its partners under the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) are dedicated to generating awareness on how value chain, with its focus on market and competitiveness, also focuses on contributing to the environment at each node of the chain and creates a green economy.

The aim of a green value chain is:

  1. To increase sustainable use of natural resources
  2. To maximise material and energy efficiency at each stage of the process and
  3. To reduce negative environmental impacts as outputs at all points of the chain.

Green value chain development refers to the promotion of green market opportunities where economic benefits come from the use of renewable resources — using natural products are maximised while environmental harm is minimised. Green value chain interventions include training in green technologies,the use of natural products over chemicals, and optimising the use of natural resources, etc.

Allo value chain in pilot site (khar) of Kailash Nepal

Allo (Botanical name- Girardinia diversifolia (Link) Friis; English name-Nettle, Himalayan Nettle, Stinging Nettle) is a perennial shrub belonging to Urticaceae family. Allo is one of the products chosen for intervention in Darchula district in Khar VDC, Nepal. The stem bark of Allo contains fibers with unique strength, smoothness and silk-like luster. Allo is a natural resource used by many local communities for making ropes, fishing nets, bags, sacks, clothing materials, carpets, jackets, porter’s head bands, etc. The demand of Allo weaved clothes is high in international markets and a prime souvenir product of Nepal. It is found in abundance in the forest area in Darchula district in and around Khar VDC.

In terms of greening of the value chain, focus was given to maximising the use of alternative energy technologies by introducing rocket stoves/improved stoves. Introduction of industrial rocket stove technology to the group had two main objectives, to conserve forest and to increase efficiency. The introduction of rocket stoves saved used less fuel wood.

Improve technology Fuel consumption Time consumption
Old stove 240 Kg wood per boiling 6 hours per boiling
Modern industrial rocket stove 80 kg wood per boiling 3 hours per boiling

The smaller size rocket stoves were also distributed to group members. The stoves saved time for women to collect fuel wood and saved time while cooking giving more for Allo thread production. Earlier, the group were using large logs to boil Allo. Now they can use just a few twigs found in the garden or forest which saves making it no longer necessary to go deep into the forest to cut trees.

Communities were also trained in making bio-briquettes. Bio briquettes convert agro-forestry waste to bio-coal which can be used to process Allo and for household uses which in turn supports afforestation. Allo waste can also be used as bio-coal which demonstration farmers have sold. This supports greening of the chain and balancing conservation and development.

  • To increase sustainable use of natural resources 

Various interventions were made to conserve Allo to avoid exploitation in the area once commercialisation and promotion starts. A nursery was promoted to begin cultivating Allo rather than solely collecting from the forest. Sustainable harvesting training is planned for the communities. Plant education and awareness is in place to prevent the plant from being mistaken for a weed.

  • To reduce negative environmental impacts as outputs at all points of the chain

Environmental impact is an important consideration at each stage of value chain. Communities had been using caustic soda to boil Allo which speeds up the softening process and takes less time and fuel to boil. But the water in which it was boiled was thrown into the river polluting aqua life. Switching to ash from burning wood or bio-coal easily found in household kitchens helped the greening of the value chain increased efficiency by using waste and saved farmer’s money on caustic soda. The switch also increased the value of the product as a chemical-free product has a better market value.

Balancing conservation and development is of paramount importance to this project. Looking beyond economic factors focuses social and environment impacts in understanding the needs of  people and their relationship to the natural environment, in optimising the use of natural resources, and minimising environment harm. It is important to take into account economic, social, cultural and environmental bottlenecks in the value chain when addressing underlying root causes of inefficiencies.

Before Now towards green economy
  1. Sold as a raw material to middlemen or made Allo thread with traditional methods, which are labour and energy intensive and produce poor quality thread.
  2. Caustic soda was used to boil the thread and water thrown to the river
  3. Firewood which took at least six hours and 240 kg of wood.
  4. Thread produced is coarse and thick.
  5. The balls of thread fetched around NPR 800 per kg and were used to make carpets.
  1. Allo group formed and members trained.
  2. Group uses ash instead of caustic soda, which makes the thread look cleaner and whiter and is sold chemical-free.
  3. Proper harvesting in a sustainable way and washing and spinning techniques make the thread smooth and thin.
  4. Rocket stove technology was introduced, which uses almost three times less fuelwood and takes half the time to boil bark.
  5. The ball of thread fetches NPR 1,100 per kilo, an increase of NPR 300 per kilo (27%).

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