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Tim in Nepal

The Tharu Distillation Project

Click here to read about Tim's return visit to Nepal in 2008 (update)

Click here to download a pdf with detailed information on the International Development Enterprises efforts in Nepal.

The following are notes and pictures Aura Cacia Aromatherapy Educator Tim Blakley sent back from his 2007 trip to two impoverished Tharu communities in western Nepal. Tim was asked by the Farmer to Farmer program to travel to Nepal to see if he could help increase the productivity and profitability of essential oil distillation operations funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Project
I was asked to complete two assignments for the Farmer to Farmer Program, which is sponsored by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Farmer to Farmer sends experts to communities around the world to promote the success various agriculture-related projects that have received funding from USAID.

In Nepal, Farmer to Farmer works with two other groups, Winrock International and IDE (International Economic Development) in running a number of programs. They’ve brought in experts in coffee, honey, poultry, medicinal herbs, vegetable and fruit production and other areas. Local companies or groups request specific aid from Farmer to Farmer and they also sponsor some of the expenses of the experts brought in. I was there to work with two different groups producing essential oils. The first group was a community that 18 months prior had received funding -- loans and grants -- to build a distillation operation consisting of two distillers in one of the poorest regions of Nepal. The second group I worked with ran a small company in the same region that has been distilling oils for 12 years, as well as trading herbs and oils that others produce. They are the main buyer/trader of the oils produced by the first group.

The first group, Brindaban Community Forest User Group (CFUG), is located in the southwestern portion of Nepal and made up of people of the Tharu ethnic group, an ethnic group that has long been socially and economically disadvantaged.

Their oil distillation project is a community effort from which everyone in the community stands to benefit. Even though their production is small by our standards, it is a huge amount of income to them. They have invested every extra resource they have into this distillation business and, as far as I can tell, it's the only option at this time for the community to make money and "get ahead" a bit.

The project's distillation operations are decidedly low-tech and sustainable. The essential oil still is fired by dried lemongrass as is common in these remote communities. (Automobiles, aside from UN vehicles and a few SUVs hauling occasional tourists, are almost nonexistent in this area.) Farming for the essential oil botanicals is done by hand and with ox, and the harvest is delivered by ox cart.

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