Walnuts open up new opportunities for small-scale farmers
The small-scale farmers in the Karnali region of Nepal cultivate their fields under difficult climatic conditions. Almost half of the people in the mountainous and secluded region live in great poverty. The naturally occurring walnut trees offer them an opportunity. The sale of walnut oil can pave the way out of poverty for the small-scale farmers. However, the manufacture of the oil in the traditional way is very laborious and protracted for the women: It takes two months to make 12 litres of oil from 200 kg of walnuts.
Relief is being provided here by the MITO project, a joint project of the ETH Zurich and the Swiss development organisation Helvetas. At the beginning of the project in 2017, everything revolved around a converted bicycle – the so-called Nussvelo. It enabled the women in Nepal to manufacture the oil in just a few days. The families can decisively improve their living situation through the sale of the walnut oil and other products made from the walnut. Further developed nut machines are now replacing the Velo. These allow the small-scale farmers to manufacture the oil even faster and more efficiently.
MITO also protects nature, because the climatically robust, indigenous walnut trees aren’t felled as much for firewood.
Using the favourable climate for walnuts
The region has large walnut forests and in general a favourable climate for nut cultivation. The nuts are in demand both nationally and internationally. Nut, kernel and oil are in demand as products. In nurseries it is already possible to cultivate plants that are even better suited to agriculture than the standard walnut plants.
Faster production thanks to technology
The walnut oil is manufactured in three steps: 1. crush nut, 2. separate shell from fruit, 3. press out walnut oil. Thanks to the Velo or the nut machine respectively, pure physical effort is no longer required to crack the nuts and obtain the valuable oil. A completely new market is opening up for the region in which 45% live below the poverty threshold.
Sustainably freeing farmers from poverty
Further developed nut machines are now being used that enormously shorten and facilitate the process of cracking wild walnuts and producing oil from them. Through the sales and the additional income, the small-scale farmers can send their children to school or pay for necessary medicines. It makes them more independent in the face of natural catastrophes.