The Rural Village Water Resources Management Project (RVWRMP), run by FCG, and financed by the EU, Government of Nepal, and Government of Finland, launched a mission to identify possibilities for enhanced utilization of local Sea Buckthorn resources in the most potential mountainous project municipalities. As a Junior Technical Advisor (JTA) of the project, I took part in the mission.
The mission took place in remote Api Himal Rural Municipality, within the Api-Nampa Conservation Area in Far West Nepal. The sea buckthorn plant grows there abundantly on the river banks and mountain slopes. We travelled to the municipality from our project office by a project vehicle for six hours on a paved road, and the next day three more hours by modest gravel roads on steep mountain slopes. From the last road head, we continued on foot one full day to the main village of the municipality, and eventually another day on foot to the last village.
We arranged three educational awareness-raising trainings, and two berry-picking and juice production trainings. The team raised local awareness of the nutritional benefits of using the plant locally, and shared knowledge about its various uses in the global food industry and cosmetics. We conducted hands-on exercises using specific tools, techniques, correct timing, and equipment for picking and processing the berries. We facilitated two trainings for hygienic manufacturing, bottling, and labelling of Sea Buckthorn juice concentrate – resulting in the first product of its kind in Api Himal.
We made an observation visit to the high valleys of the municipality. Reaching the last village took one more full-day walk along the valley surrounded by snowy peaks. We stayed overnight in a cosy mud house in the freezing Himalayan climate at over 3000 metres. The team observed the local Sea Buckthorn reserves, the existing varieties of the plant, and the quality of the berry. We also measured the GPS locations, average weight of the berry, and other properties for the government records during the mission.
As a result of the mission, local people realized the unseen potential of the local berry besides its local, somewhat underutilized use of the berry as raw squeeze. The mission prepared recommendations for further enhancement of Sea Buckthorn utilization, cultivation, and commercial use possibilities in the area. RVWRMP sees potential for further use of the berry locally for improving nutrition, and as a product in the local markets, in the medium term. RVWRMP continues contributing to capacity building, continuous awareness-raising, and organizational and institutional development in Api Himal in this regard.
For me, the mission showed the strength and beauty of the project, implementing development and enhancing the quality of life in the remotest corners of the world.