By: Pragati Babu Paneru, Saroj Pant and Niranjan Pudasaini

For spreading awareness and contributing to the increased recognition and utilization of local, indigenous and organic crops/products, food fair, organic fair, diversity fair etc. organized at local, regional or national level have been effective.

In this context, the Government of Nepal: Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Department of Agriculture (MoALD) and Center for Agricultural Mechanization, Promotion and Infrastructure Development under Government of Nepal jointly organized 12th National Organic Agriculture Fair’ at Jawalakhel, Lalitpur from 28th Feb to 3rd March 2018.

The major objective of the event was to raise awareness on the value of organic, local and underutilized crops and their products. The fair was adorned with diverse banners, display items, stalls comprising local and organic agricultural foods and products. Altogether, there were a total of 125 participants representing different ethnic groups, farming communities, private entrepreneurs and cooperatives from all over the country who participated in the event. The stalls were exhibited mainly under four categories viz. ‘Fresh Agriculture Produce, Processed Agricultural Produce, Cooked Food, Agriculture Input/Technology. Each different category was assessed and the best stall was distributed with the prize. As per the organizers, about 50,000 people visited the fair. The estimated financial transactions of about twenty five lakhs (USD 25,000) from local indigenous and organic foods and products.

UNEP GEF supported Local Crop Project (LCP) also participated in the fair and utilized the opportunity to demonstrate LCP’s effort to a wider audience. The women group, local entrepreneurs were engaged in the display and serving of traditional food items, processed food products. . Whereas the staffs worked on sharing knowledge of local and traditional crops and food items. The project’s interventions on conservation, promotion, and utilization of indigenous crops were highlighted. The local crops are grown in the traditional way which makes them organic by default. Two separate stalls, one of the traditional foods and other value-added processed products from Humla and Lamjung project sites were also exhibited. Farmers from Jungu community seed bank Dolakha site also participated in the fair with organic local products. “Ghanpokhara-Roplefant HomeStay” group from Ghanpokhara, Lamjung project site, participated in the event wearing their traditional attires and were busy preparing and serving recipes made from local crops. Their stall had unique and diverse local food recipes made from local crops including “Kaguno ko Kheer”, “Kodo ko Sel”, “Chamal ko Sel”. Of the other recipes served, typical local recipes “Bhatmas-Niguro ko Tarkari’ऽ “Gundruk ko Achar” and “Sisno ko kholey” attracted attention of the visitors. Besides that, “Kodo ko pitho” (finger millet flour), “Faparko pitho” (buckwheat flour) and local beans from the LCP Dolakha site were sold at scale from the same food stall. The Lamjung (Ghanpokhara) Women Homestay stall was awarded ‘consolation prize’ in the ‘cooked food’ category for promoting traditional crops and local foods. They also got a certificate, token of love and a monetary prize. Ms Ratna Kumari Gurung upon receiving award shared “We are very pleased to participate and get awarded in this national level event. We would like to thank Local Crop Project for supporting us. Ghanpokhara homestay always values and promotes our local crops and food recipes and welcomes you all there. As a women farmer, we feel very motivated with this award.”

Ghanpokhara homestay serving local food recipe to the stall visitors. Photo: Saroj Pant, LI-BIRD

The UNEP-GEF LCP-supported entrepreneur, Mr. Mukunda Rokaya, proprietor of ‘Subarna Simikot Khadya Uddhyog” traveled all the way from Simkot, Humla to participate and trade his locally produced products. Mr. Rokaya was able to sell and share information about locally processed food items of proso millet, foxtail millet, finger millet, buckwheat and barley from high mountain of Humla. He stated that these kinds of events have been helpful in promoting underutilized local and nutrient-rich crops in urban areas. He shared these fairs also helped in developing market linkages among diverse entrepreneurs and government agencies and learn about the potentiality of these local crops for product diversification. He was also recognized and awarded with the second prize for his effort on diversifying traditional crops with truthful labeling. He received certificate appreciation, a token of love and a monetary prize. After receiving the award, Mr. Rokaya stated “This is my second participation in the national level fair with support from LCP. Now I’m sure, there is a huge market potential of local and organic products, especially in urban areas. Proper linkages should be established and technologies should be transferred for product diversification and packaging. Personally, I would like to thank LCP team for providing me national level exposure which has helped me to grow my business.”

Humla entrepreneur Mukunda Rokaya with his award. Photo: Pragati Babu Paneru, LI-BIRD

Besides serving unique recipes and food products, the team has been able to provide and share interesting information about local traditional crops of Nepal, such as Kaguno (foxtail millet), Chino (Proso millet) crop to the visitors. The team realized that most visitors were totally unknown about these crops and were overwhelmed on receiving this information. Most of them were students of agriculture and they really appreciated the information and they also took knowledge product on traditional mountain crops produced under LCP project and LI-BIRD.

In overall, the organic fair also provided wider exposure to LCP site farmers especially women farmers from Lamjung and Dolakha sites. The participants are highly motivated realizing the value and scope of traditional crops and foods. Ms. Chandra Kumari Jirel, one of the participating farmers from Jungu, Dolakha, stated “I have realized the scope of these traditional food and crop in urban areas. I’m amazed to learn that barley, buckwheat and finger millet can also be used for the preparation of modern products like noodles, cake, momo and cookies. If proper links are established, we can sell our local products to urban areas easily and earn money from it.” Along with the recognition, exposure, and experience, it is expected that they will carry and convey positive messages to local communities in working sites and relay to others as well for promoting value chain and mainstreaming underutilized local crops.

Local crop project team with award winning Ghanpokhara homestay group from Lamjung. Photo: Devendra Gauchan, Bioversity International

Local Crop Project (LCP) is funded by the Global Environment Facility, implemented by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and jointly executed by Bioversity International, National Agriculture Genetic Resources Centre (NAGRC) – Nepal Agriculture Research Council (NARC), the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD).

This article is reviewed by Dr. Devendra Gauchan from Bioversity International, Mira Dhakal and Rita Gurung from LI-BIRD.