Project partner: HELVETAS
Small farmers in the Karnali region of Nepal cultivate their fields under difficult climatic conditions. Almost half of the people in the mountainous and remote area live in great poverty. But one opportunity is offered to them by the naturally occurring walnut trees. A specially developed walnut machine brings progress for the small farmers. The sale of walnut oil can sustainably free them from their poverty. This is because producing the oil in the traditional way is very time consuming and tedious for the women: it takes two months to obtain 12 liters of oil from 200 kg of walnut.
The MITO project of the Swiss development organization Helvetas, provides a remedy here. At the start of the project in 2017, the focus was on a converted bicycle, the so-called nut bicycle. It enabled the women in Nepal to produce the valuable oil in just a few days. By selling the walnut oil and kernels, the families can decisively improve their living situation. Meanwhile, more advanced walnut machines are replacing the bicycle. This enables the smallholders to produce the oil even faster and more efficiently.
MITO also protects nature, because the climate-proof indigenous walnut trees with their valuable nuts are cut down less for firewood.
The region has large walnut forests and generally a favorable climate for nut cultivation. The nuts are in demand nationally and internationally. Nut, kernel and oil are in demand as products. Nurseries have already grafted plants that are even more suitable for agriculture than the standard walnut plants.
The production of walnut oil works in three stages: 1. crushing the nut, 2. separating the shell from the fruit, 3. pressing out walnut oil. Thanks to the bicycle or nut machine, it no longer takes pure physical strength to crack the hard nut and obtain the valuable oil. A whole new market opens up for the region, where 45% live below the poverty line.
Meanwhile, more advanced nut machines are used, which massively shorten and facilitate the cracking and oil extraction process for walnuts. The sales and additional income enable the smallholders to send their children to school or pay for necessary medicines. It makes them more independent in the face of natural disasters.
With MITO, Helvetas is establishing technology and value chains in Nepal that facilitate the work of poor farming families in exploiting the walnuts. This also opens up new sources of income for them.
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The Happel Foundation Switzerland is a charitable Swiss foundation based in Lucerne.