In Nepal, I believe everyone who so ever has worked in sector of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) must have heard the story of failure of Kurilo cultivation.
Kurilo (Asparagus racemosus) is a medicinal plant. The plant is also known as Satawar. It takes three years to mature. After harvesting the tubers of Kurilo, farmers process it. They clean the tubers, boil and peel it. The processed tubers are sun dried. The best quality should be yellow in color and thick.
Before few years, processed Kurilo was one of the high value medicinal plants. During that time, the farmers/collectors used to collect the tubers from the plants in forest and process at their place. They were earning 800 – 1000 per Kg. It is a decent income for poor household in remote areas. Gradually the plant became endangered in the forests due to over exploitation. As the households were aware of processing techniques and market was also available. The NGO/INGO’s intervene for support. As a result, they distributed saplings of Kurilo for cultivation.
Farmers and CFUGs farmed the crops with very high hopes. The economic value of this plant was also taught to the them. Unfortunately, the crop had many challenges when it was ready to harvest.
- The promoted species of Kurilo for cultivation was different than the variety demanded in market.
- Lack of processing skill in farmers/collectors.
- Farmers had inadequate knowledge of post harvesting treatment of the product.
- There was steep drop in market price due to high production.
- The promoters of the crop for cultivation provided no marketing support to farmers.
Stakeholders raised these concerns in all public gathering like workshop, seminar, focused group discussions. No progress was made irrespective of all the hue and cry. The farmers/CFUGs abandoned their crop in fields because of high disappointment. Recently, few private producers took initiative. They went to the source, searched for the right variety and got authentic identification of Kurilo. They collected seeds from wild plants and developed nursery.
The private producers did their research and mastered in skill of processing. Even in dark days of Kurilo, they were earning comparatively good prices because of their quality and approach. This motivated farmers again and taught them value of quality cultivation/ processing.
In 2016, Kurilo started gaining edge. The traders started looking for processed Kurilo all over again. The dropped prices started gaining momentum. Eventually, the value of this product has reached where it was. Consequently, the forgotten plants in CFUGs and Private farm is not enough to fulfill the demand of market at present.
This is a very critical case. All stakeholders should take lesson from this. Introducing any crop for income of farmers is not enough. It requires huge work which mostly people refrain to contribute. As a result, mostly such program face failure or conflict of interest like above.
- Farmers should be taught to be independent and market their produce.
- Stakeholders should understand the value of Economy of scale. In this case, the farmers/CFUGs individually cultivated in small areas. Hence, the harvesting and processing of the yield becomes expensive.
- Before promoting any product for cultivation, comparative market study is necessary.
- Infrastructure support is very important.
- Marketing and technical support is very crucial.
- Identity of medicinal plants is very important for cultivation. Department of Plant Resources should do progressive research on the main and sub varieties of plants. They should acknowledged the sub varieties of plant responsible for diluting the quality and value of products in market.