Staff and structure

Private sector engagement for mountain development

The private sector drives much of the global economy. In developing countries, it generates the majority of jobs and funds a large number of development initiatives. As users of mountain resources, the private sector has a critical role in promoting green economic growth in the HKH region, as well as in protecting mountain biodiversity. Engaging with the private sector is thus important for achieving our mission of improving the lives of mountain communities.

Within the private sector, the HKH region is seen as a vast repository of natural capital. Amid the rising challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity, mountain people have to find ways to use this capital to create sustainable livelihoods. Our partnership with the private sector is geared towards achieving this goal.

We have a comprehensive Private Sector Engagement Strategy 2019 (updated from the 2017 version) for meaningful engagement with the private sector. The Strategy explains the importance of private sector partnerships, how businesses can benefit from partnering with ICIMOD, and ways to foster collaborations.

Why we work with the private sector

We engage with the private sector to fulfill three broad objectives:

1. Integrate environmental sustainability into business:

We generate knowledge that helps the private sector make socially and environmentally responsible decisions. While making their business plans, private companies can draw upon our extensive knowledge about climate change, environmental conservation, water resources and energy in the HKH region. We involve private sector actors in selecting topics for action research, exploring sustainable business solutions, scaling them up and ensuring their sustainability. The private sector adds value to our activities by bringing new technology and innovation. We are well positioned to provide critical information on business risks, such as potential impacts of climate change on the hydropower industry. We recommend actions that help businesses offset their environmental impacts while providing benefits to local communities. We also collaborate with the private sector to develop programmes that advance both their business goals and the agenda of sustainable mountain development.

2. Support mountain entrepreneurship:

Our private sector partners help us achieve our goal of improving the livelihood of mountain communities. They have financial and technical capacity to develop value chains and link grassroots producers to buyers. They can thus play a critical role in creating a market for niche mountain products. In collaboration with the private sector, we support communities to run enterprises based on locally available resources. Together we can develop value chains for high-value products and help vulnerable enterprises better position themselves in the local, regional and global market. Further, the private sector can help us scale up promising livelihood activities, diversify products, develop facilities for new entrepreneurs, and ensure quality.

3. Provide a regional platform for businesses:

As a regional intergovernmental organization, we serve as a bridge that links the public sector, development actors and businesses in the HKH in order to promote economic growth and sustainable development. We provide a unique platform for private sector entrepreneurs across the region to share their ideas and engage in policy dialogue for addressing business challenges and harnessing opportunities for responsible investment. We work with the regional and national chambers of commerce and industries to expand their network in the region.

Who is the private sector?

‘Private sector’ broadly stands for business and industry. It encompasses multiple actors working for profit and economic growth. These include micro enterprises, cooperatives, MNCs, banks and financial institutions, as well as state-owned or public/private for-profit businesses. Information, communication and other business development service (BDS) providers are considered private sector entities as well. The private sector also includes non-profit business organizations, associations and corporate philanthropic foundations.

Potential areas for partnership with private sector

Forest & medicinal plants
Climate resilient
Eco tourism
Renewable energy
Access to finance & insurance
Information & allied technology
Enterprise development
Supply chain & high-value products
Waste management
Energy generation & access

Our partners in the private sector

We work with diverse actors in the private sector to promote sustainable mountain development in the HKH region. Some of our key partners and their specific roles in advancing our mission are described below.

Collaboration with regional and national business federations allows us to influence business practices in a positive way. Our partners include the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI), Federation of Chambers of Commerce in Bhutan, China, India and Nepal as well as the Confederation of Industries of India and Nepal. These organizations draw on our expertise on climate change, biodiversity and conservation, water resources and management, sustainable use of mountain services and products, eco-tourism and renewable energy in the HKH region.

For more than a decade, we have been working with Dabur Nepal Private Limited to promote medicinal and aromatic plants from the HKH region. With our combined resources and expertise, we have established a herbal garden at the ICIMOD Knowledge Park in Godavari, Kathmandu. Dabur Nepal provided the initial establishment costs, technical assistance, planting materials, and maintenance. We provided the thirty-hectare land on which the park stands. The garden serves as a site for research, testing and demonstrations, and a centre for training and information sharing.

The Environment System Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), USA, is a world leader in geographic information system (GIS) software. For more than a decade, ESRI has been providing scalable software to run our GIS/RIS systems and applications at a discounted price. In the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, ESRI provided voluntary technical support for building an online hub for information on disaster relief and recovery. The hub, which we developed in collaboration with the Nepal government, became part of the national Nepal Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Portal. Other entities that have provided us technology solutions as grants or at subsidized rates include Microsoft and Dell.

As part of our broader efforts to promote sustainable land management practices in the HKH, we established kiwi fruit orchards in Wangkha and Chasilakha, Bhutan, in collaboration with the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). Cultivating kiwi fruit on sloping land in hill areas helps minimize soil erosion and downstream flooding. This high-value crop enhances biodiversity and improves the livelihood of mountain farmers by providing a source of cash income.

We promote solar powered irrigation pumps (SPIPs) as a clean, climate resilient, and pro-poor solution to water, food, and energy related problems in the region. One of our partners in this mission is Sun Farmer, a Nepal-based energy service company. It co-invests funds for solar-powered pumps and earns its revenue from rent paid by customers. We subsidize a portion of the pump costs, while Sun Farmer – through a financial intermediary – provides loans to help farmers buy the pumps. Sun Farmer’s services include promoting solar pumps in target areas, assessing demand for solar pumps, conducting energy audits, procuring solar pumps through a competitive bidding process, evaluating the quality of installations, and monitoring systems’ performance over the payback period. As a partner in our project, Sun Farmer ensures that clients who are using the solar pump pay their rent. It will also monitor the solar pump systems beyond the project period. The partnership has thus helped us ensure the sustainability of this important project and advance our goal of promoting renewable energy.

Statkraft Norway is a publicly owned company, an international leader in hydropower, and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy. We collaborate with Statkraft to develop sustainable energy and assess climate change impacts on the hydrological regime of the Himalaya, in particular on hydropower development. For this, Statkraft uses our research findings and expertise in climate change scenario development, downscaling and hydrological modelling. This also provides important lessons for ICIMOD scholars, who, together with Statkraft staff, are exploring potential hydropower projects related to water availability and demand.

Smallholder farmers across the HKH are under increasing pressure to adapt to the effects of climate change. Our Resilient Mountain Solutions (RMS) Initiative develops simple and affordable tools and approaches for building rural communities’ climate resilience. We recognize the importance of digital solutions in increasing farmers’ productivity and climate resilience, and have collaborated with several private entities to create digital tools for agriculture development. These companies include GeoKrishi Initiatives, Pathway Technologies, and Services Private Limited. GeoKrishi is helping us generate information useful to farmers, develop a crop advisory system and establish a Municipal Agriculture Information Centre.

There are roughly 120,000 brick kilns across South Asia. These kilns release black carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere and pose a threat to health and the environment. We have been working to mitigate this problem and transform the brick sector of South Asia into a healthier, socially responsible, and more profitable industry. Our Air Pollution Solutions Initiative collaborates with the Federation of Asian Brick Kiln Associations (FABKA) to achieve this goal. FABKA encompasses four countries in South Asia where brick kilns are a major source of air pollution – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Through this collaboration, we are able to take collective action and shape plans and policy for cleaner and more sustainable brick production in South Asia.

Aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs need professional guidance and mentorship to move forward. Our partner Antarprerana Pvt. Ltd supports entrepreneurs in Nepal through investments and mentorships. It aims to empower entrepreneurs, enhance the investment climate and promote collaborations. Antarprerana provided technical assistance to our Resilient Mountain Solutions Initiative to establish a start-up centre in Bhutan. Antarprerana is helping us co-design and implement a mentorship curriculum, run knowledge exchange activities, and create knowledge resources for Bhutanese entrepreneurs.

Improving mountain communities’ access to finance is critical for their empowerment. One of the partners that help us achieve this goal in Nepal is NMB Bank. We build on each other’s network and strengths to bring about sustainable mountain development through knowledge intervention and business promotion. The partnership focuses on improving access to finance, making impactful investment, and carrying out corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities for the benefit of mountain communities. Recently the IFC gave NMB Bank a loan of USD 25 million to boost financing for green projects and small and medium enterprises. This was IFC’s first climate-focused lending in Nepal. Without our long experience in addressing climate related problems, we can help NMB identify and evaluate green lending opportunities in Nepal and promote green solutions.

We work with various partners to promote yak-based enterprises and improve the livelihood of yak farmers in the HKH. The Treasure of the Tibetan Plateau (TTP), the largest yak company in China, to provide the technical expertise and exchange of knowledge. In 2018 we collaborated with the TTP, China’s agriculture ministry, Qinghai University, and FAO to organize the sixth International Yak Conference and the first International Yak Industry Summit. We are working with Shokay, a socially responsible yak down brand, to explore ways to generate income for yak herders. We have created a network of yak research organizations, yak herders and businesses from Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, and are helping formalize the Charter for the Yak Industry Association.

In partnership with Plantec Coffee Estate in Nuwakot district, Nepal, we helped restore a large swath of degraded land in the district. Before Plantec cultivated coffee in the area (1994), the 38.4 hectares of land consisted of agricultural fields (73.2%), barren land (17.1%) and shrub/bushes (6.3%). Now 81.2% of the area is covered by forest, out of which 52% has closed canopy. The total carbon stock of the area has increased to 6,795 tonnes (equivalent to 24,939 tCO2), which is worth USD 124,693. This initiative is a good example of how we can work with the private sector for climate change mitigation.

The devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015 killed almost 9000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of houses. In the aftermath of the disaster, we worked with the Nepal government to rebuild a village in Dhungetar, Nuwakot district. Support for the project was provided by International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Several private companies in Nepal contributed their resources and expertise for building a smart and resilient village in Dhungetar. Nabil Foundation contributed funds for building a community centre where locals can hold meetings, workshops and trainings and run health camps and provide daycare services. Dabur Nepal contributed saplings for plantation in landslide-prone areas. eSewa, a digital payment portal, trained four young women to set up an eSewa counter in the community centre. The Rotary Club (Durbar Marg) donated 100 essential household toolkits to the Dhungentar community; each toolkit included a water filter, a mini water container, a saw, a hammer, nails, a screwdriver, pliers, trowel, a clothesline, and a tarpaulin. World Distribution Nepal provided four Dell computers for the centre. Working with these diverse partners, we were able to rebuild a disaster resilient village that can be replicated in other mountain areas of the HKH.

We will continue to strengthen and expand our partnership with the private sector. We are exploring climate finance resources and businesses that would be interested to fund or upscale our adaptation/mitigation projects in the HKH region. ICIMOD and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have commissioned a Green Climate Fund (GCF) study on the scope of private sector investment in productive sectors such as energy, agriculture, manufacturing, and extractive industries. The study will form the basis for formulating a National Private Sector Financing Strategy for Productive Sectors in Nepal.

Where Business Meets the Mountains:

ICIMOD’s private sector engagement strategy for sustainable mountain development in the HKH

Private sector plays a key role in realizing the huge potential for sustainable economic growth and resilience in ICIMOD’s regional member countries (RMC), in line with member countries’ sustainable development and climate resilience objectives. For ICIMOD, engagement and partnerships with the private sector as a means to support ICIMOD’s vision and mission for sustainable mountain development, and to enhance its impact on mountain communities by including private sector actors.

ICIMOD will engage private sector to tackle poverty alleviation and sustainable use of natural resources through its progressive technology development, knowledge of innovative solutions, aid in skill development and extend a broad range of socio-economic services to marginalized mountain communities.

Many different types of private sector actors have relevance for ICIMOD. Some of the key sectors include agri-based companies, water and irrigation equipment companies, banking and financial institutions, tourism, herbs and medicinal plat related companies, infrastructure developers, private forestry, production/manufacturing companies and ICT.

Why ICIMOD would like to partner with the private sector
  • Solutions for impact: private sector partnerships that add value as solutions to the impact of the regional programmes in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region
  • Scaling up potentials: private sector partnerships that contribute to upscale the pilot projects of ICIMOD in the region
  • Sustainability of activities: private sector partnerships that support the long-term sustainability of the activities of ICIMOD.

ICIMOD is mindful that a successful engagement with the private sector is going to require appropriate institutional positioning and innovation within ICIMOD. As ICIMOD is transitioning to a new medium term action plan, ICIMOD has develop a comprehensive strategy for meaningful engagement with the private sector.

Private sector partnership roadmap

A roadmap for private sector engagement activities at ICIMOD has been outlined for 2017 onwards leading to the medium term action plan IV, 2018-2022. The roadmap known as the “Building Bridges with Business: ICIMOD’s Private Sector Engagement and Partnerships for Sustainable Mountain Development in the HKH” has five key components with targeted activities. Each of the five components are explained in the following.

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The fragility of our mountains

Climate financing opportunities

Energy generation and access


Health food and water security

Infrastructure and built environment

Building cities industries and appliances

Forests and land use

Ecosystem and ecosystem services

Livelihoods and people and communities