Mr. Ramesh Lama

As part of its mission to create a rich biodiversity and prosperous people, ANSAB has been promoting Non-timber Forest Products. One such project is through building small distillation units to extract the vital oils from essential oil producing products. The distillation of the plants reduces the need to transport huge amounts of bulky raw products long distances and allows the Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) who work together in distillation cooperatives to add value to their products as the distilled oils are much more easily transported and command a much higher price. In addition to helping the CFUGs set up the cooperatives, ANSAB also and provides training, technical support and assistance with marketing. ANSAB also links the cooperatives’ products with high-end export market buyers, such as the US-based cosmetic company Aveda. Project impacts include using fallow and marginal land to cultivate aromatic plants; providing local communities with access to distant markets; developing technical cultivation and processing skills; and generating employment for local community members.

The personal impact, however, is one of the most impressive: per-household income for participating households has increased by 11,202 rupees annually ($174). For example, take the case of Ramesh Lama, who learned how to operate a distillation unit from his District Forest Officer, and although he did not have a previous background in forestry, he has been working for eight years as the Manager of Deudhunga Cooperative’s  Distillation Units. As manager, he takes the distilled oil from all of the four distillation units in the cooperative and consolidates it to take to market. Moreover, as a member, he also has shares in the cooperative – a unique business method, which makes members eager to see the units succeed and which also puts collective pressure on the many people involved in making the operation successful – from collectors through to the manager. In total, in Ramesh’s particular cooperative, five Community Forest Users Groups (CFUGs) and 25 individuals have shares in the business.

Ramesh records the quantity of raw materials that the harvesters of the CFUGs give to the Cooperative and also accounts for the money owed and received by the different parties. It is a challenge at times, he notes, to be responsible for so many different people’s actions, but, at the same time it provides a service to the many people involved in the processing.

Due to his skills he has acquired, Ramesh is now also training others on how to use and manage distillation units. He earns 500 NRs per day as a technical trainer and has also helped set up projects in nearby Darban. “I am happy to come to work and feel glad that I learned a new skill that I can do on my own,” says Ramesh. “Moreover, the revenue from my training jobs, from the consolidation management work, and from my shares feeds my family.”

Ramesh’s expertise is in demand – with ANSAB he has been going to Bhutan to train local individuals on the proper used of oil distillation units.