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Strengthening Communities (SC): a herbal farming alternative

To connect Nepalese small-scale farmers to herbal markets; to grow, process and produce herbal products together to increase farmer incomes.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

THE IDEA:
To grow, process, produce and sell organic and sustainably sourced herbal products together with small-scale farmers to improve their incomes and strengthen local environments.
HOW IT WORKS:
Herb Nepal (HN), an organic farm and training centre will create a farmer network in 3 districts consisting of; SC Champions (Cs) and SC Farmers (Fs). Cs are passionate, dedicated farmers that are trained and certified by HN in organic and sustainable herb farming. Cs then train Fs, selected by the HN Community Mobiliser in partnership with the local community. Together, all the farmers (Cs and Fs) use their personal land to cultivate and sell high-value herbs on the SC programme replacing spoiled vegetables; hence 'a herbal farming alternative'. Once cultivated, Farmers have two choices: i) Sell herbs direct to market OR ii) Take them to Herb Nepal (HN) collection centre for value-adding production, with HN taking them to market. Direct payment is made to the farmers (subject to quality and quantity). Revenues from HN products are partly reinvested into the SC programme to scale up and maximize impact. Ongoing support for farmers including technical inputs, provision of current market prices, improved farming methods which reinforces market connection.
WHAT PROBLEM DOES YOUR IDEA SOLVE:
Low and insecure incomes of small-scale farmers, high levels of food waste and spoilage, unsustainable farming, dangerous levels of chemical use and their negative effects on health.

WHO BENEFITS?

Beneficiaries are economically poor farmers with a special focus on women and girls, historically excluded castes and ethnicities, rural people and groups experiencing marginalisation for other reasons. Secondary beneficiaries include product consumers and farm visitors. Primary benefits are increased incomes, increase in organic and sustainably grown foods, stronger environments and healthier communities and increased awareness of organic and sustainable farming.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

HN intends to implement the SC programme in various districts in Nepal, including the far-west. However, this pilot programme will have a specific focus on the central region (Sindupalchowk, Kavre and Bhaktapur).

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

HN is a Private Limited based in Nepal, and established by Simone Alexander and Benjamin van Ooij in December 2014. Unlike a traditional business model HN has a triple-bottom line approach, that measures success based on our social, environmental and financial impact.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

The SC Programme is a central and fundamental element of HN, farmer-inspired, it provides a solid foundation on which future innovative and ground-breaking programmes can be realised.

This idea is not new, it has evolved gradually over the past three years as a result of personal and profession experiences; seeing first-hand the financial difficulties and food insecurities faced by farmers and their families in Nepal; experiencing first-hand the harsh environment including landslides and earthquakes but at the same recognising the agency, inherent strengths and resources that farmers possess to address the problems that they are facing. Together, this has led to the creation of the SC Programme as a farmer-led platform.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Prior to setting up HN, we asked ourselves some difficult, but poignant questions. Namely, are we simply replicating what others are doing? Is there space for HN? Can HN make a difference? In hindsight, it was this approach that already made us different. This dialogue was crucial as it allowed us to crystallise the unique advantages that we possessed to implement this idea.
Key differences:
- Commitment to creating fair, inclusive and sustainable value chains;
- Ongoing technical and market support for farmers (not just training);
- Organic herbal farming as an alternative to chemical farming;
- A triple-bottom line business; measuring success by social, environmental and financial outcomes;
- A scalable and replicable programme.
Unique advantages of HN are:
- Support from local community, local government offices and ministries;
- Temporary infrastructure and staff team in place;
- Financial, HR, admin systems;
- Research student placements;
- Farm stays completion expected September 2016;
- A mini-pilot of the SC programme for 50 women farmers in Kavre district is ongoing;
- Strong organizational values.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

HN will oversee and manage the implementation of the overall pilot programme. This will be carried out with support from local partners including local NGO's, farmer groups, Community Forest User Groups and local Village Development Councils (VDC's). These partners will enable the SC programme to successfully reach the intended beneficiaries.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

A combination of participatory theatre (with role plays and mock-ups), storytelling, supply chain maps and sample herbal products were used creatively to engage the farmers. The feedback confirmed that the programme has been well designed and will make fundamental differences to the lives of poor farmers.
However, we recognised that for cultural reasons people can be inclined to give positive responses rather than those that might lead to disappointment. Therefore, a farmer-led, participatory and culturally appropriate feedback mechanism will form part of the SC programme. Amendments to the programme include; payment methods will now be varied, including cash, mobile phone payments (depending on availability) and cheques to allow for individual farmer preference. Secondly, local collection centres will be established to allow for easier transportation which will be transferred to the centrally based Processing and Production centre, Sanga, Kavre. For detailed beneficiary feedback please see attached document.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

As a pilot programme, there are a number of unanswered questions:
1. What will be the impacts (positive and negative) of the programme on farmer's income levels and food waste?
2. Which training methods will be the most cost effective and lead to sustainable outcomes for farmers?
3. 'Which new herbal agricultural products will perform best in the face of the changing climate?
4. What will be the impact of climatic change on projected yields?
5. Although not part of the programme, an unanswered question is whether there can be a strategic fit between financial services and a social enterprise?
6. 'What will be the best ways to adapt the programme so that it is replicable across Nepal

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The current accessible markets for many small-scale farmers encourage them to cultivate using only conventional i.e chemical farming methods and crops. The problem we seek to solve is low incomes, unsustainable farming methods, high food waste and negative impact on health. These problems are compounded by uncertain markets, fluctuating market prices and competition from neighbouring countries. These problems have yet to be solved as there is a lack of knowledge at a government and institutional level, there is a lack of technical know-how and alternatives for individuals, and the development sector, although pockets of good examples still promote conventional farming methods.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

The HN vision is to have a massive social and environment impact that inspires people to act and solve global challenges. The products are different, mini change-makers representing solutions to global challenges, catalysts for positive social and environmental change, all inspired by personalised messages from Nepali farmers. The next step is to produce and sell these high quality products that are commercially attractive with positive social and environmental outputs.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • Less than 6 months
  • Between 6 months and a year
  • More than a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 100 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

ABOUT HERB NEPAL

Herb Nepal (HN), established in December 2014 is an innovative organic farm and training centre, based in Naichal, Bhaktapur (central region). HN is a Private Limited social enterprise legally registered in Nepal.

The overall mission is 'to create a better world, a fairer world and a healthier world'. The farm works closely with small-scale farmers and communities to actively promote the principles of organic and sustainable farming methods.

As an exciting and groundbreaking farming environment, with a range of income generating activities taking place, HN will become financially independent. Planned activities for 2016 onwards include farms stays, fee-paying training courses, community-led initiatives and volunteer and intern placements. The income from these activities will be partly reinvested into the running of the SC programme to secure its future. 

ABOUT THE SC PROGRAMME

The SC pilot programme has been created in partnership with small-scale farmers and is aimed at small-scale farmers in Nepal. The programme offers a refreshing solution for small-scale farmers that improves incomes and reduces food waste; achieved through the alternate cultivation and processing of high-value organic herbal crops.

This means farmers can access fair, inclusive and improved herbal markets which provides an alternative to vegetable farming and markets.

Programme aim: To connect Nepalese small-scale farmers to herbal markets; by growing, processing and producing organic herbal products together to increase farmer incomes and strengthen local environments. 

Programme objectives:

1. To increase the income and improve living standards of 6975 small-scale farmers and their families;

2. To improve access to fair, inclusive and sustainable organic herbal value chains for 1395 small-scale farmers in 3 districts within three years;

3. To train 1395 small-scale farmers in organic and sustainable farming methods.

Motivated by the desire to bring about positive social change, it seems self-defeating to cap the potential of this idea by the use of beneficiary numbers. Therefore, minimum target numbers are included although we intend to achieve much more. Working in partnership with IDEO, we believe this idea has the potential to scale up, replicate and take this idea to farmers that live in other vulnerable areas in Nepal.

Minimum primary beneficiary numbers include a farmer network of 1395 members made up of; 45 Champions (Cs) and 1350 Farmers (Fs). Beneficiaries will include 5580 family members of the Cs and the Fs. Total beneficiary numbers are 6975 which is based on an average family size of five within Nepal. 

The focus districts will be in the central region (Sindupalchowk, Kavre and Bhaktapur).

Programme detail

The programme can be summarised by a 4 step approach:

1. SC Training - The Training & Demonstration (T&D) hub based in Naichal, Bhaktapur provides trainings in sustainable and organic farming and herbal production that combines indigenous, local and modern farming knowledge to small-scale farmers.

The SC training programme provides ongoing comprehensive support for farmers over a 3 year period. Interventions for farmers include access to new farming technologies, provision of market prices, ongoing support and advice from the locally based HN Community Mobiliser.

The HN team, based at the T&D hub will train fellow farmers from across the target areas within 3 years. These farmers certified as Champions (C's) will then train fellow Farmers (F's).

2. Cultivation and Farmer processing - All farmers (C's and F's) that have been trained on the SC programme will then cultivate high-value organic herbal crops. Fs with ongoing support from Cs, will use organic farming methods to maximise land productivity, increase incomes and strengthen their local environment. Additionally, herbal crops can be used to support and improve the health of the local community and to increase the biodiversity of community forests. Depending on climate and regional variations examples of crops include Ginseng, Valerian, Lemongrass, Tumeric and Ginger.

A unique aspect of the SC programme is to enable small-scale farmers to process locally, resulting in increased control over the herbal value chain. Processing can take a number of forms including dehydration, pulverising, and extraction. Farmers have an option to take these herbs to market independently or to HN for either processing or packaging. 

The added benefit of processed herbal crops, unlike other foods is that they have a long shelf life. Once dehydrated, and as long as they are stored in an airtight container herbs can last in a warehouse facility for over a year.

3. Transportation and production - Farmers can decide to bring them to the HN Processing and Production centre, based in Sanga, Kavre (1 hour from Kathmandu and 25 minutes from Naichal) or a local collection centre. Quality and quantity of the herbs will be checked, confirmed and payment will be made to the farmer.

Where required and depending on the requirements of the target market, HN will create additional value through the use of additional post-harvesting processing and production methods and techniques. Examples of products include natural cosmetics, dried herbs, teas, tinctures, salves and creams, flower essences and foods as medicines (depending on findings from market research). 

Throughout the 3 year pilot period, HN intends to sell products in national markets via local farmers' markets, on-site retail, speciality retailers, Ayurvedic doctors and the wholesale market.

4. Up-scaling - Following the initial three year pilot period, HN plan to scale-up the activities using a three‐prong strategy.

Regional export market: Explore and initiate export markets in China and Japan to access new markets.

In-house manufacturing: Manufacturing will be scaled-up to widen product range and gain control over the value chain and to reinvest higher income into the SC programme.

Regional Training centres: Regional training centres in the far-west region will increase the reach of the SC Programme and the inherent benefits.

IMPACT

The impact of the SC programme will be:

  • Increased incomes and improved living standards for small-scale farmers and their families; 
  • Improved access to fair, inclusive and sustainable organic herbal value chains for small-scale farmers; 
  • Increased use of organic and sustainable farming methods;
  • Improved biodiversity and stronger environments in target areas;  
  • Improved personal health in target areas.


MONITORING AND EVALUATION

Internally, progress will be tracked to ensure that we are exceeding expectations of this programme. HN only develops systems that help, not hinder our actual work. There will be internal reporting mechanisms, line management in place to ensure that everyone in the HN is supported in their work and have the opportunity to excel. It will be useful to use some basic, yet effective methods for capturing key information, such as focus group discussions, interviews, attendance sheets and registration forms but otherwise the focus of the work will be practical in nature with minimal levels of bureaucracy. 

SUCCESSES AND ACHIEVEMENTS

Sath Sathai Mundi, a local NGO in Timal, Kavre requested Herb Nepal to conduct the SC programme as a consultant service. This training is currently taking place for 50 women farmers from the Tamang community. This programme is providing a unique opportunity to test, reflect and make amendments on the proposed SC pilot programme.







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Team (4)

Prina's profile
Prina Bajracharya

Role added on team:

"As a Product Designer and previous student on Ideo's Human Centered Design, Prina made valuable inputs into how the approach with the community could be improved and to give space for other potential solutions to food waste and low incomes to be created. Together, we met with a small group of community members for an initial session, no alternatives were offered, but our idea was again positively reinforced. However, it was a useful process and made us look more critically at the idea."

Agraj's profile
Agraj Dangal

Role added on team:

"Agraj is a key organiser of the IDEO Meet-up in Nepal. I was keen to meet to get a better understanding of the meet-ups. We met for one session as a team, in which he provided some valuable inputs to improve the idea. A second meeting was not possible, although I hope to build upon and increase Agraj's contribution in the future."

Simone's profile
Benjamin's profile
Benjamin van Ooij

Role added on team:

"Benjamin, the Director of HN worked for many years in the field of finance, IT and business. Although in 2010 this all changed as a result of travelling and working on organic and sustainable farms, Benjamin realised his passion was to pursue farming. His personal aim is for people to create sustainable food systems, have access to healthier food and stop poisoning the planet."

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Attachments (3)

HN_SC_Experience_Map.pdf

This is the original user experience map.

HN_SC_Experience_Map_testing_assumptions.pdf

This user experience map was the basis on which the theatre session, storytelling and 'thumb up' 'thumb down' exercise took place. The method used to test our assumptions about the SC programme is included in this document.

Beneficiary feedback - in detail.pptx

This document contains the detailed beneficiary feedback categorised according to 'The Good', 'The Bad', 'The Unexpected' and 'What Next?'.

59 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Jongpong Chiten
Team

Congratulations!

Photo of Ernest Kreutzer
Team

super

Photo of Richard Okoe
Team

Congratulations

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks Richard. Find out more about us on Facebook: herbnepalfarm

All the best,  

Photo of Dorine Poelhekke
Team

Congratulations Simone! We're looking forward to meet you at the IDEO Amplify Bootcamp in Nairobi!

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

It will be great to meet you and find out more about what you are doing. Looking forward to it.

Before then - maybe we can exchange Facebook pages? herbnepalfarm

All the best,

Photo of Amie
Team

Hi Simone and team, 
Congratulations! We look forward to meeting next month, I'm particularly interested to hear more of your three pronged success measure.
Regards,
Amie and the team at Zasaka. 

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Amie and team,
Well done! It will be great to meet next month. Happy to tell you so much more about Herb Nepal. Do you have a facebook page - maybe we can connect?

 

Photo of Muyomba Wilberforce
Team

Congrats Simone and team for the victory achieved 

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks Muyomba, the team are overjoyed. We are really keen to continue to working in partnerships, across continents. Please check us on Facebook - herbnepalfarm.

Thank you  

Photo of Alex Mugo
Team

Congratulations for making it to the last winning 5, wish you well.

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thank you so much Alex. It's been a fabulous process but finally glad it has ended. Well done to you too - I think it's been a fantastic process for us all. I'd love to stay in touch and share our ideas in the future. What's your Facebook page? Our is herbnepalfarm. Thanks again, Simone 

Photo of Alex Mugo
Team

Looking forward to hearing from you as we also look into areas of cooperation. Our facebook page is: https://m.facebook.com/ukulimadigital/

Photo of Alex Mugo
Team

Looking forward to hearing from you as we also look into areas of cooperation. Our facebook page is: https://m.facebook.com/ukulimadigital/

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Please have a read of this timely article - about the potential of small-scale farming. http://www.iatp.org/blog/201309/new-un-report-calls-for-transformation-in-agriculture

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Simone, 

Below are some feedback from our experts and Amplify team. Looking forward to your responses!

This idea is valuable in that it seeks to support small-scale farmers into self-sustaining, higher-crop/income-yielding producers.

-How would substituting herbs for vegetables impact the community's dietary diversity?
-What's the existing market for herbal crops like in Nepal currently? Have you conducted studies on the demand and financial viability of herbal crops in the local community?

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Chioma and tea
Please have a read of the answers below to your questions:

1). How do you anticipate substituting herbs for vegetables will impact the community's dietary diversity?
The idea of the programme is not to substitute herbs for vegetables per se, but to offer an alternative to the selling of vegetables that would otherwise result in food waste. With this alternative, potentially spoiled vegetables can be exchanged for the commercial selling of organic and nutritious herbs resulting in higher incomes.
Key to the programme is encouraging communities to ‘grow their own’ to ensure local and sustainable food sources. Small-scale farmers can choose to grow herbs and vegetables together, it is not necessary for farmers to solely cultivate herbs. This will be based entirely on personal preference, family situation and local context of individual farmers.
The organic and sustainable farming practices learned as part of the SC programme will be transferable to the growing of vegetables as well. Far from limiting the community’s dietary diversity, it will actually expand the dietary options for the community as it means people will have access to healthy organic vegetables rather than those that are chemically produced.

2) Is there a market for herbs like the ones you plan to sell in Nepal?
Initial research has been completed which suggests that there is a substantial market of herbs in Nepal and for export. Initial research has shown demand in three areas:
i). Homeopathic, Ayurvedic and health products intended for national and international end consumers (i.e. teas, oils, extracts, natural cosmetics, salves and creams, dried herbs);

ii). Raw (fresh) and semi-processed (dried) products intended for Ayurvedic doctors and clinics;
iii). Raw and semi-processed products intended for local production companies (e.g. Dabur Nepal).
The report ‘Promoting Export of Medicinal and Aromatic plants (MAPs) and Essential Oils from Nepal’ was carried out by the South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) (2011). The research focused on export potential, socioeconomic impact and employment impact. The study concluded that MAPs and essential oils had medium export potential, but high socio-economic impact. Similarly, the survey conducted found that the sector’s domestic supply conditions were medium. The business environment for herbal production and processing is favourable.
The assessment ‘Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: Poverty Impact Assessment (PIA) of proposed Trade Support Measures’ (2011) found that there is much potential for growth of Nepal’s export of medicinal and aromatic plants. According to Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC), Nepal exported US$3 million worth of MAPs in 2008, increasing to US$9.8 million in 2009 which fell to about US$6 million in 2010.

These reports reinforce the existence of substantial markets for herbs and medicinal plants. This is further corroborated by the UNDP report with a specific focus on Timur ‘Value Chain designing of Timur of Panchase Protected forest area’ (2014). The report found Timur was available for sale throughout Nepal particularly in trading markets including Kathmandu.

The report concludes that specific data about individual Timur use is unavailable. The biggest buyer of the Timur seed in Nepal is Dabur Nepal (200 Metric Tonnes annually). Similarly, Herbs Production and Processing Co. Ltd (HPPCL) demands more than 200kg of Timur oil (equivalent to 6.6MT raw, 3% yield).
It points out that although Ayurvedic companies in Nepal demand Timur production, quantity demand is unknown.
  
The report reflects our initial research that Kathmandu is the end market for both oil and raw Timur, and potentially other herbs, and is intended for individual consumption, commercial and Ayurvedic companies. A detailed marketing strategy for Herb Nepal is underway which will provide further insights into the potential domestic and international market and inform our strategy accordingly.
 


Due to word limits - I attach answers to question 3, 4 and 5 below.

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

3). Have you conducted studies on the demand and financial viability of herbal crops in the local community?
To date, initial research has been completed with a comprehensive study to be completed as part of this proposed pilot programme.
However, initial research including community-based focus group discussions has been incredibly positive. One session with 20 women farmers in the Kavre district, another with 20 farmers (mixed gender) in Bhaktapur, resulted in all farmers informing that they would pilot herbal cultivation on a piece of their land and would increase cultivation accordingly. Two reasons for the demand and interest in herbal cultivation were provided by the group. These were namely; health benefits and having more money.
Initial farmer financial projections were carried out in January 2016 to ensure that the SC programme was viable for farmers. This highlighted that the earning potential of farmers would improve significantly through the selling of herbs. Initial and conservative estimates (based on average land size, average yield per land size and price per crop) are that farmer incomes would improve by 20%.
  
 4). What distinguishes your idea from other similar value-chain related projects?
This programme is ground-breaking as a clear vision of ‘making a better world, a fairer world and a healthier world’ guides the value chain development rather than the other way around. Unlike traditional value-chain projects that have a sole economic output, this programme has a social and environmental output.
At the core of the programme is the dedication to engage the economically poor and marginalised groups, including historically excluded castes and ethnic groups, women and girls, rural people and young people). This aspect of the programme distinguishes it from others; it is inclusive, community focused and strives to create fair value chains by enabling farmers to have greater control over the value chain i.e. processing herbs and creating added value at a community level.
The SC programme will do things differently, we do not put profits before people or earth. Ironically, Ayurvedic medicines are often chemically grown; these medicines are often used to fight diseases; which are often caused by chemicals in the first place. Herb Nepal’s approach to the earth and people sets us apart, by caring about the environment and valuing organics we ensure that the true potential of herbal properties can be realised.
Unlike traditional and chemical farming methods, sustainable and organic farming is more suited for poor farmers. There are less external inputs e.g. compost, water, land which means it is more accessible for poor farmers than other farming techniques.
There is a long-term commitment to farmers through technical support to ensure their ongoing and continued inclusion in herbal value chain. The farmers are placed at the core of the SC programme, without them it remains an idea.

 5). What are you hoping for Amplify support with?
The most exciting element of Amplify is the opportunity to connect, learn and be inspired by global experts. We have the dedication, passion and will to succeed with this programme and with the addition of technical experience and skills we can achieve even more. We are particularly interested to receive advice and inputs from experts in the design, agriculture and technology fields.

Specific technical inputs include product design. The basic idea is that the herbal products allow for farmers and consumers to connect emotionally as well as through markets. The products, in essence act as the voice for farmers, they bring farmers to life, it makes them real by incorporating farmers into the product design. Technical inputs from the design team will allow us to build upon this idea and to implement it successfully and creatively. 

With experience in farming, agriculture and social development sector, we are able to build on what did work and to learn from what didn’t work. But in truth, we want to push ourselves further. We are ground-breakers, risk-takers, and people that will try new things and enter into the unknown in order to address urgent and pressing global threats.
Amplify support and the IDEO network will be a vital platform for us to confidently and creatively grow, succeed and inspire action for future ideas. Herb Nepal is a dynamic platform on which new ideas can be tried and tested and we hope to join and partner with organisations that seek to do the same.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Simone,

Thank you for the comprehensive response! It's very helpful in understanding your idea better. 

Can you tell us more about how you plan to implement the next stage of your idea? How many people work for Herb Nepal? What percentage of time do they spend on it weekly? Have you worked with the organizations that you mention as partners? What investment are they committing to give to this idea?
Thanks!

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Chioma,

Thanks for the questions. I hope the answers give more information about the programme. Feel free to ask any other questions as they are helping me to define my answer during this Improve Phase.

Can you tell us more about how you plan to implement the next stage of your idea?

The steps below are a summary of the implementation for the next stage.

Implementation plan - Activity and timescale (approx.)

1. Designing, branding and testing herbal products for the market (including processing and production techniques) 1 month – ongoing

2. Evaluation of first mini-project in Timal. Learning to be included in future trainings 3 months

3. Recruitment of SC core team (SC Programme Lead, SC Programme Co-ordinator, SC Community mobilisers, SC Herbal specialist, SC trainers, consultants and support staff) 2 months

4. Procurement of training materials and resources 2 months

5. Induction and training of the core staff team 2months – ongoing

6. Initiate training programme for first cohort of 10 SC Champions (from current programme operating areas in Kavre and Bhaktapur) utilising temporary training building and local home stays as participant accommodation 3 months – 4 month

7. Community mobilisers and Champions to connect with local co-operatives, farmer groups and NGO’s to reach target farmers (especially poor and marginalised). Suitability checked against set criteria by Programme Lead and Co-ordinator. 4 months - 5 months

8. Co-ordinator, Community mobiliser and local champions to promote and initiate SC farmer training in their locality, with regular technical inputs (supervised by SC Programme Lead) 4 months – ongoing

9. Assessment to be carried out in each locality with inputs from partners of local market system (i.e. how goods are taken from producer to market), local enterprises and potential opportunities, obstacles and community needs (especially for poor and marginalised groups) 6 months – 8 months
10. Based on the assessment findings - selection/ establishment and linkage based on local need of enterprises, services (advice, seed, seedling, compost, companion plants, beneficial insects, finance, grafting, storage/collection centre, collection, weather and price info, transport) 7 months – 9 months
11. Herbal cultivation started 8 months

12. Local collection of herbal crops organised by Herb Nepal, based on what works locally and depending on farmer preference. 12 months – 30 months

13. Produce, package and farmer-produced herbal crops to enter market. 4 months – ongoing *timescale dependent on existing farming practices*



How many people work for Herb Nepal?
There are 19 people in the existing staff team. Where possible, people are recruited from the local community which is represented by members of the Tamang ethnic group. The focus on local recruitment is motivated by the high levels of discrimination and social exclusion facing the community which has resulted in high rates of poverty and illiteracy. Locally recruited job roles are highlighted below:
- 1 Farm manager (Kathmandu)
- 1 Farm Supervisor (Local)
- 2 Trainers (Surkhet – Far West)
- 2 Cultivators (Local)
- 1 Staff Cook (Local)
- 10 temporary Staff on day wage supporting construction and cultivation (Local)
- 1 Financial Administrator (Bhaktapur)
- 1 Legal Advisor (Kathmandu)
- External consultants (international)

What percentage of time do they spend on it weekly? - 2 Trainers – 100% - 2 Full time cultivators -70% - 1 Farm Supervisor – 50% - 1 Farm Manager -30% - 1 Staff Cook -30% - 10 Staff on day wage supporting construction and cultivation -20% - 1 Financial Administrator -10% - 1 Legal Advisor – 5% - External consultants – 70%

Two further answers attached below. Thanks for reading.  

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Have you worked with the organizations that you mention as partners?

Bhaktapur:

In Naichal, Bhaktapur (the location for the farm) we have well established relationships with the local government organisations. Following the 2015 earthquakes, the joint response was collaborative and supportive which strengthened the relationship between ourselves, the local community and governmental organisations. Namely, this was the local Village Development Committee (VDC).
This relationship was also useful in January 2016 when there was a rabies outbreak in the local community with led to a human death and a number of animal deaths. With limited access to health services, Herb Nepal worked with the local VDC to mobilise the local hospital to ensure people received life-saving vaccinations.
Herb Nepal attends the Community Forest User Group (CFUG) meetings and makes an annual contribution towards the upkeep of the local forest. This is a useful relationship will be a useful platform for exploring how the forest can be used by local people in a sustainable manner and to increase their income at the same time.
A number of the staff at Herb Nepal are farmers. Therefore, we envisage it should be an easy step to connect with local farmer groups especially given the positive feedback received about the programme.
 
Kavre:

In Timal, we are still in the stage of developing and networking with local organisations although the response so far has been positive. As a local NGO, Sath Sathai Mundi recommended the involvement of Herb Nepal to provide the SC programme to the local farmer group. The farmer group have been overwhelmingly supportive and able to share their genuine concerns about the programme.
The session was an open, honest dialogue with myself and the local farmers. It allowed us to clarify expectations, which are both realistic and empowering. The potential in Timal is incredibly exciting and the possibility of rolling this programme out to other areas in Kavre is highly likely.
Sindupalchowk:

We are yet to develop partnerships in this area, although the initial focus will be in Bhaktapur and Kavre. Once, we have established success in two areas then we will be prepared to roll out in the third district. We intend to commence this in Year 2 of the programme.

What investment are they committing to give to this idea?

Investment was received by Sath Sathai Mundi for the initial programme in Timal which will run over 30 months. This has enabled us to trail a mini version SC programme for 50 farmers.
Investment by the Government ministries has not been received although the investment of time, collaboration and willingness has been provided and has made the local context far easier to work in than it potentially could be.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thank you!! Sounds like you have a lot on the go! It's great that you already have support for 30 months right now - when does that end?

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks Chioma. I probably didn't explain the Timal investment very well! The NGO asked us to provide a specific programme to connect 50 organic farmers to markets. It is a mini project, but it has been great to trial our idea. We are now ready, in every sense to scale up and reach more farmers!

We will continue to give technical support and inputs for up to 30 months only, with the programme ending in June 2018. We are now ready to up scale and replicate it. I hope this answers your question? 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Great to hear, it does! :)

Photo of Rohan Barwick
Team

So great to read about this inspiring project. Well done Ben and Simone. Can't wait to see how it develops! 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Simone,

The Amplify team and our expert have some feedback for you:

How do you anticipate substituting herbs for vegetables will impact the community's dietary diversity?

Is there a market for herbs like the ones you plan to sell in Nepal?

What distinguishes your idea from other similar value-chain related projects? What are you hoping for Amplify support with? 

Looking forward to learning more! 

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Chioma,

Thanks for your feedback and questions. Just working on the answers which will be with you soon. Thanks

Simone

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Chioma,

Thanks for your feedback and questions. Just working on the answers which will be with you soon. Thanks

Simone

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Chioma,

Thanks for your feedback and questions. Just working on the answers which will be with you soon.  

Simone

Photo of Bahenda Joseph
Team

Hello Simone Alexander,
I like the way you articulate the problem that you intend to solve: " The idea will solve the problem of low and insecure livelihoods of small-scale farmers and high levels of food waste and spoilage [in Nepal]". Maybe one question could be : " by how much?" And if it is not a secret, I would love to learn more about the following statement: ". . .to cultivate and sell high-value, low-waste herbal crops rather than low-value, high-waste vegetables".  I seek to  get inspiration for my own project.

Best Regards,

Joseph

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Joseph,
Thanks for your comment and your suggestion. I'd be happy to explain the 'high-value, low-waste herbal crops....low-value, high-waste' statement . In a nutshell, herbal crops are 'high-value' as market prices for herbal crops in Nepal are generally higher than that for 'low-value' vegetables; secondly, dried herbs tend to withstand the external environment resulting in 'low-waste' as opposed to vegetables which can be 'high-waste'. As I improve the concept I hope to provide more detail about our rationale and your feedback has been very helpful in pointing me in the right direction. Thank you.   

Photo of Bahenda Joseph
Team

Hello Simone Alexander,
Thank you for helping me get more insight in what you do. As a matter of fact, I wanted to know which types of low-value/high-waste and high-value/ low-waste herbs that you grow, maybe we can learn from you and duplicate your experience in Burundi. At Chicken 4all Ltd, we train small-scale farmers to be more efficient and to be more self-reliant in managing their crops.
Finally, we would appreciate very much if you could take a few minutes of your time and give us a feedback as well at Chicken 4all Ltd.

Kind Regards,

Joseph

Photo of Evan Easton-Calabria
Team

Thank you for sharing an exciting project concept note! I am wondering if you have already researched the market demand for herbs in Nepal, and if could address how to avoid creating competing markets among your producers. This project seems to have the potential to address real needs!

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Evan,
Thanks for your message. Initial market research has been carried out which indicates a large demand of herbs in Nepal. Initial research has shown demand in three specific areas: ayurvedic, homeopathic and health products for national and international end consumers (i.e teas, oils, extracts, natural cosmetics, salves and creams, dried herbs); raw (fresh) and semi-processed (dried) products for ayurvedic doctors and clinics; and raw and semi-processed products for local production companies. In order to build upon previous research, we are carrying out detailed market research as well as a value chain analysis.
It is intended that producer competition will be addressed through quality checking mechanisms to ensure that there is consistency for all farmer produce, a locally based Champion that understands local power structures and the promotion of collaboration rather than competition by working closely with co-operatives. As a pilot programme, this is one aspect in which there will be much learning, testing and reflection that will inform the future development of the programme. I hope this answers your questions and thanks again for your comments.      

Photo of Sanjeev Lama
Team

Amazing job you guys have done and I know how much effort it takes.
Hats off to you and your team.

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks for your comment, Sanjeev.

Photo of Nicola Weir
Team

Love this project. Would like to chat about drying methods for herbal products and how farmers can also be trained in this and Eco packaging. 

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Hi Nicola,
Thanks for your comment. Traditionally vegetables and herbs are dried using a Nanglo, which is large circular bamboo plaited plate that is left open in the sun. Herb Nepal will work closely with farmers to ensure this tradition is continued, the team will include some technical inputs resulting in a better standard and improved hygiene of herbs. This training will initially be delivered by the a herbal specialist although technical inputs will continue through regular and ongoing meetings with the local SC Champions and at the local SC collection centre. The packaging of products is currently being tested but the aim is that they are sourced locally using local materials and skills, biodegradable (i.e you can throw them on your compost bin) with income being reinvested back into Nepal. I hope this fully answered your questions. Thank you.

Photo of Yury
Team

Just love this project. Wish you all the best with it. 
Cheers,

Photo of W.R. van der Zee
Team

Super nice project! Cultivation, education and market access are the pillars of development!

Photo of Leontine van Ooij
Team

We are not just proud parents but we're sure this project will become a big success. Not only because of  the great idea itself, but also thanks to the skills and experience of Benjamin and Simone, thanks to their effort and commitment in good times and bad times, their drive and the care for people in difficult situations.
they deserve your support!
Leontine and Pieter van Ooij

Photo of Deep Bhattacharya
Team

Very innovative way to touch the lives of the less privileged. I was going through many reports on commercialization of agriculture and farming in India and Nepal and found out that 80% of the farmer populations in these countries have very small portions of land so just commercialization of agriculture would start a competition among the farmers which deteorates there community relations. This is one reason there has been so many farmers suicide cases in India because the government wants to commercialize farming without supporting community building. In past long before the green revolution the yield was lot lesser yet the farmers were happier and content. The reason was that the community was very strong. All the women and men of the community would come together singing ploughing songs to go and plough land of one farmer one day, the another farmer another day and this is how life was. For, me the it was very important to see that Herbs Nepal is looking from both the sides; on increasing community engagement and on the other hand giving them proper solution with their small farming areas for organic regenarative farming to reduce wastes and that they get more in terms of money from the cash crops/ herbs than regular agriculture. 
The plan promises innovation to me and can be replicated to other countries as well. But, I would also like to know from Herb Nepal if they also have plans to take  initiatives towards the main crops in Nepal like Rice, Dal. Would be very happy to help in connecting your team to potential Markets. All the best.

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks for your positive feedback Deep. This idea is still very much in the design stage,  so all suggestions are valued and are crucial components for this phase. I am interested to know if there was a reason for  asking about daal and rice specifically?

Photo of Deep Bhattacharya
Team

I see great potential in the project and understand that it is at its inception stage and how the project is trying to develop a more sustainability based agriculture which is also economically beneficial to the farmers. But, I was also curious that if after this phase may Herb Nepal can upscale to also include training for the main crops like Daal Bhaat, increase productivity while reducing wastage and go on a much larger scale as Daal Bhaat is the staple food of the country. Offcourse, as the name suggests Herb Nepal so the focus should always be on the cash crops/ herbs especially but if the the project could also include to train farmers in different disciplines as well to include the main crops that may overcome the challenges of climate change, low productivity, excessive use of pesticide/fertilizers and minimize excessive wastage through effective management while building the community as the project already is delivering towards.

Also I would like to include, that the Vedic literature Ayurveda suggests that Herbs grow most healthy and is of highest efficiency which are grown in the Himalayan region in that environment. Ayurveda also refers to Himalaya as the treasure house/jewel box of most efficient herbs in the world. I think Herb Nepal should include this during marketing of the products. I can send the literature to you in time.

Photo of LUU
Team

I really love your concept since it offers a new choice for farmers. And I am interested in the marketing and commercial processes for the produced herbal crops. I am not a professional in agricultural industry, but in my understanding, the manufacturing and selling processes of herbs might be much more complex than that of vegetables or regular crops. The old complicated production-delivery-sale process has impacted the market efficiently and also made waste. If the organization can help built a more straightforward P2C connection, such as one dominant broker who will be in charge of all the related procedures, marketing, packaging, transportation, exporting, sales, etc, I think local farmers can benefit more, in terms of economic income.
 


I also would like to learn about how the organization will promote and popularize this pilot programme into larger scale in the future. This herbal crop approach need lots of input and investments of techniques, knowledge, and money, again, as my personal understanding. Those might be too broad for the current stages anyway. This pilot really offers the vision of an environmentally ambitious future for those small-scale farmers. I’d love to learn more about it!

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks for your comment, Luu. It is extremely helpful to reflect on your suggestions, you are not from the agricultural field but I would be interested to know in which field you work? This idea is still very much in the design stage and we are purposely thinking broadly at this stage.  Currently we are undertaking a value chain analysis and focus group discussions which will further test, challenge and possibly present new ideas.  Additionally, we hope to gain more insight into how reducing and simplifying the P2C connection will be financially advantageous for farmers.

After the 3 year pilot, we plan to up-scale using a three pronged phased growth strategy: in-house production and processing, regional training centres and export of products. Through the introduction of a locally-based training centre in the far-west we hope to maximise the reach of this programme. 

This is will need lots of inputs, both technical and financial which will be supported by other income generating activities such as farm stays, volunteer and student placements, fee-paying training courses and of course, the sales of herbal products from the pilot programme. A range of teaching methods and approaches will be used to enable techniques and knowledge to skilfully be shared among the farmer network;  including combining indigenous, organic and regenerative farming knowledge, using technology where appropriate and participatory action-led learning to name a few. It is an ambitious, yet essential, and achievable. I hope this answers some of your questions. For more information about what we are doing please stay in touch. Thank you.

Simone@herbnepal.com 
 Facebook: herbnepal farm 

Photo of Anjan Dahal
Team

The idea and the program seems very intersting and new as well in the context of Nepal. I think this kind of program is the requirment for mordanising the Nepali Agriculture. Besides that, the program also seems "impact" creating in days to come which is also adding value in the process and product later. This is also give a chance for change in villages and if proved later can be replicated in other part of the Nepal where this kind of program and new ideas will create life changing impact for the local people.  Best of luck from my side!!

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks for your comment, Anjan. That is exactly the aim, to improve herbal value chains to ensure communities benefit from increased control over processes and products. Thus, alternate high-value cash crops are more accessible for farmers to sell at market. 

Photo of Ozuluonye Shedrack
Team

Using a farmer led platform whose strategy will not only improve livelihood, reduce waste and spoilage but also regenerate the world  by offering organic food to consumers ( healthier foods),  reducing environmental pollutants and returning the soil to its natural state is a wonderful idea

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks for support Shedrack. It's great to get positive feedback from people in the agriculture field. Thanks. 

Photo of Naomi
Team

This looks like a great idea. I think the focus on ongoing technical and support and market linkages will be your key to success. Although everyone like to receive training without followup and ongoing support farmers often find it challenging to put their training into practice. It also is appealing to reduce waste from unsold low value vegetables produced by farmers as cash crops but lacking market linkages. I wonder whether another component for farmers to reduce waste would be to introduce on-farm solar drying for both herbs and vegetables?
Keep up the great work!
Naomi Saville, Nepal specialist with 21 years experience in the country

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Thanks for your comment Naomi. Solar drying is definitely something that could be used and can be tailored as needed. We are due to have another feedback session with farmers, which will include suggestions made during this expert phase. This is to either generate alternative idea/ solutions or to confirm the suitability of the current idea. Thanks for your feedback and please keep inputting.

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

हामी हाम्रो SC programme लाई अझ राम्रो बनाउनको लागि तपाइहरुको सल्लाह र सुझाब को अपेक्षा गर्दछौँ। तपाइहरुको बिचार धाराणा थाह पाउनको लागि हामी हाम्रो मूल्यांकन फारम हाम्रो फेसबुक पेजमा प्रकाशित गर्नेछौं। त्येसैले कृपया हाम्रो facebook page fb /herbnepalfarm मा हेर्दै गर्नु होला। धन्यबाद ।

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

We want to get your feedback, inputs and suggestions to make the SC programme even better! We will be publishing an evaluation form to get your ideas - so please check out our facebook page: herbnepalfarm. Good or bad - we want your feedback. Thank you  

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

Welcome to the team! We are so excited to have you on board. Looking forward to collaborating - Agraj Dangal and Prina Bajracharya. Thank you:) 

Photo of Vosje Lama
Team

Dear, I love the idea, it's really inspiring for small farmers to connect and share. Hope you will succeed!

Photo of Vegetable Resource Centre
Team

Your idea seeks to solve the problem of environmental vulnerability which is a big challenge is many countries. Kenya can borrow from this idea as it also seeks to come up with sustainable farming practices. 

Photo of Simone Alexander
Team

That's really nice to hear! We have just received some positive feedback from local farmers about how herbs, grown locally and in community forests can be used to support their incomes.  At the moment they are just used to feed the cows. Hopefully, this is an opportunity to change that. Please keep giving your inputs - it is much appreciated.  

Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Great to have you onboard! We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top. We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.