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Export of intercropped organic spices and macadamia from Nepal... guarantee a sustainable, long-term income for small-holder men and women in the mid-hills of Nepal.

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The international demand for different kinds of nuts – almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan and walnut – continues to increase due to perceived health benefits, nutritional value and changing dietary habits, particularly also in development and emerging economies. In this context, we, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (hereinafter HELVETAS) have initiated an initiative to assess the suitability of nuts including macadamia in the context of agricultural commercialisation considering climatic, social and economic parameters in Nepal.

We found that the climate for macadamia is suitable at many locations in the middle hills at present (see Figure) and in the future. 

Macadamia farmers are motivated by curiosity, income and low labour requirements of the nut trees as a HELVETAS study on acceptance, motivation and challenges behind nut cultivation in Nepal has shown. Children like the taste and farmers said that the macadamia gives them energy which is explained by its high content of saturated fat. 

Once the tree is planted, the physical work involved is marginal, which makes it a suitable crop for women, older people and left behind families of Gulf migrants. The nuts are robust and when they are dried properly, they are nearly non-perishable. These characteristics are crucial for many poorly accessible areas in Nepal as it allows growers to decide themselves when to sell the product. 

In Nepal, macadamia requires the same micro-climatic contitions such as coffee, ginger or turmeric. As the trees will take time to mature and produce nuts, we aim at intercropping spices with macadamia.

Explain your idea

Our idea is that smallholder women and men farmers in Nepal benefit from the sale of organically produced spice crops intercropped with macadamia.

The proposed project engages with all major actors in the sub-sector, particularly the input providers, the producers and the wholesale traders in Nepal and Switzerland as well as service providers for access to knowledge, skills and access to finance.

The activities will be implemented by the market actors themselves with facilitation support from HELVETAS. A small team of international and national technical experts will support with their technical advice, management and coordination support.

Who Benefits?

Local nurseries are supported to grow high-quality rootstock and graft them with competitive scion in order to supply them to interested producers. The nurseries shall be established and function as productive and viable enterprises.

Input suppliers for relevant spice crops are capacitated to provide best available inputs.

The producers – with focus on women and men small-holders - learn to establish orchards and manage plant, soil and water resources sustainable and productively. As macadamia nuts are only tradeable after 5-6 years, intercropping systems with spice crops, mainly ginger and turmeric, is supported and promoted. To ensure maximum market opportunity, the production systems are organically certified. The initial establishment of these orchards is supported through financial linkages to micro-finance and banking institutions. Traders and cooperatives build their capacity to process the raw materials under best hygienic conditions and to export the processed product.

How is your idea unique?

Macadamia have been introduced to Nepal in the 1970 by a joint project of the Governments of Australia and Nepal. Due to the insurgency, economic development stagnated and the markets in Nepal have not developed fully. Only in the recent years, mostly rich and socially advantaged farmers started to grow macadamia. Through this idea, we want to give less advantaged farmers the opportunity to start their high-quality macadamia orchard intercropped with spices. We would like to achieve this following a market systems development approach - facilitating existing market actors to be able to do a better job and to remove main constraints for poor and disadvantaged to participate. We see that organic macadamia are a niche and could proof to be a success guarantee for the environmental context in Nepal; due to steep terrain, mechanization is not possible and we have to rely on human resources. We further link local producers with fair traders in the European market.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.
  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

HELVETAS came to Nepal in 1956 and now cooperates with many technical and social organizations in all 75 districts across the country. The organisation aims at contributing to improved living conditions of economically poor and socially discriminated men and women in Nepal. Addressing these needs it implements 16 different projects under its five working areas: Education and Skills Development, Environment and Climate, Governance and Peace, Rural Economy, Water and Infrastructure. The interventions contribute to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger through improving access, better services, increased income from market-oriented agriculture, and increased income from gainful employment outside agriculture and increased food sufficiency from improved on-farm practices. Activities contribute to environmental sustainability through sustainable agricultural practices, community land management, integrated water resource management, drinking water and sanitation promotion. In its work HELVETAS Nepal promotes social inclusion and gender equity, knowledge sharing and innovations, policy dialogue, advocacy and downward accountability following the human rights based approach. HELVETAS Nepal attempts to provide long term continuity to the current projects through quality implementation, phase extensions with the same donors and the search for alternative funding after termination of project funding from the current donors. The organisations further seeks opportunities to innovate, expand and increase the number of projects under each of the working areas provided they fit into the strategic framework outlined in the Country Strategy 2011-2015. It employs 275 professional and support staff, amongst them two expatriates.

The nut initiative has started three years ago by myself under the umbrella of HELVETAS, researching nut cultivation in the rural areas of Nepal. In addition, a variety of pilot initiatives with hazelnuts, walnuts and macadamia have been implemented.

Our business partner will be an international trader who has his interest in both spices and nuts and is willing to support the suggested project for the certification and the processing steps of the value-chain.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

Attachments (1)


Teaching materials we started to develop for the macadamia training.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Raisa Mar

Dear Andrea, I like how you will be helping communities in Nepal through Organic Entrepreneurship!

Photo of Dashrath Bhurtel

It will of great work

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