Linda Cruse, the author of Marmalade and Machine Guns: One Woman’s Quest to Help Disaster-Stricken Communities Back On their Feet, has created an amazing platform for change in the world. Global Race 4 Good is a brilliant mesh of young energy and good business sense. Linda has goes into communities in need, lives with them and then asks and studies to find the key to make each individual community thrive. It’s no wonder Sir Richard Branson said, “Linda makes the impossible possible.”
Musa Masala believes Linda holds the key for success with her innovative ideas in impoverished and disaster stricken communities. We will have a future interview with Linda, but for now here is the story of Race 4 Good’s first trip to Nepal with the winning team from UCLA, which originally appeared in her email newsletter. Please check out more on Race 4 Good and Linda at LindaCruse.com. We are proud to present Linda here with the awesome team from UCLA.
This is a story about bees, bamboo and marigolds. Five passionate students ready to ‘be the change,’ Dan, Alexa, Kyle, Mitchell and Toffy flew from Los Angeles to Kathmandu, Nepal to put their winning R4G business plan into action.
Before traveling to the earthquake devastated village of Thangdor, they were able to meet Lama Pasang – a Buddhist monk, one of their six R4G advisors, each with a specific area of expertise and also R4G advisor Ukesh Raj Buju, a Himalayan forester and agriculture expert. Lama Pasang guided the students to understand how the influence of Buddhism plays a part on every aspect of life in Thangdor and their awareness of this would help with success and sustainability of their projects.
Taking into consideration the time of year and the weather the R4G team & students focused on implementing 3 income generating projects from their winning R4G business plan; bee keeping, bamboo growing and marigold cultivation.
Kalu Ghale, 36, and wife Dekchi, 35, have a five-month-old baby boy, Dev Raj Ghale. This family’s story is not unusual. Nepal is one of the poorest countries on earth. With little paid work available, human labour is Nepal’s largest export. An estimated 1,300 Nepalese citizens go abroad for work every single day, 95 percent of them going to Gulf countries and Malaysia. On average, two or three per day return to Nepal in a coffin.
“I didn’t go to Dubai because I wanted to,” Kalu Ghale said. “Like many others from the mountain villages of Nepal we have money problems. I decided to go abroad, earn as much as I could for the children and come back. I was trying to create a better life for us. There aren’t enough jobs within our country, so we are forced to migrate. But I am never going back… I am determined to make a living for my family here in Thangdor, I want to see my son grow up and I am excited about the opportunity to do this through beekeeping.”
Expert beekeeper of 35 years, Lekhnath Adhiskari, accompanied the R4G team to Thangdor, giving a two-day training on Apis Cerana, the bee that thrives in Thangdor, and the benefits of modern hives. Traditional harvesting methods, the only known practice currently used in Thangdor, often kills the queen and young bees, taking up to a year to develop a new hive, whereas the modern hive has sections and the young bees can continue to thrive in one section as honey is collected from another. Leknath also demonstrated how to build a modern hive.
Honey harvested in the mountains is good quality and there is a high demand. Honey is used for medicinal purposes to increase immunity and is a popular remedy for coughs, colds and fever. Ayurvedic doctors recommend that honey should be taken with herbal medicine for better results.
ROI – market price for honey
One kg of Apis Cerana honey sells for NPR1,000 (US$10). One hive can produce between10-25 kg of honey in a year. This equates to $100 – $250 per year. Ten hives will give an income of $1,000 – $2,500 a year.
An average family of 4 in Thangdor can live on $100 a month!
Potential for Thangdor families in Lamjung district, west of Kathmandu
Lekhnath Adhikari works with many families. Each family has between 20 – 225 hives. Together they produce 20 tons of honey a year. With nearby pastures, wild jungle plus the introduction of all year round rotational farming, Lekhnath Adhikari believes that there is the same potential in Thangdor & honey could be harvested 4-6 times a year.
23 more Thangdor families are ready to start honey production.
The migrant workers from Nepal are the hidden slaves of a rich city. It has been stated that in 2014 Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have died at a rate of one every two days.
UCLA BAMBOO PROJECT
The second project implemented in Thangdor by UCLA students is bamboo growing.
The international bamboo and cane trade averages $6 billion annually and Nepal has up to 5% of the world’s bamboo population, within only 0.1 percent of the world’s land area. Bamboo is a hardy plan, needs little water and is fast growing, as much as 10 – 12 feet a year.
Bamboo is also being cited to be the best ‘carbon sink’ for greenhouse gases putting out 35 percent more oxygen than other trees and every hectare of bamboo soaks up 12 tons of carbon dioxide every year.
Bamboo shoots are nutritious and already a diet staple in Nepal. Nepal produces 102 tons of tama (fermented bamboo shoot) used in dishes which have been well-known in Nepal for centuries. Tama is commonly sold in the local markets from June to September when young bamboo shoots sprout. On average, each household consumes about 46 stems a year. It is a good source of fibre, carbohydrate, vegetable fat, protein and vitamin B.
Stops Erosion – Prevents Landslides
R4G agriculture advisor Ukesh Raj Bhuju met with the students as they reached Kathmandu and reinforced the multiple benefits of bamboo.
“Floods and landslides account for over 3/4 of economic loss caused by disasters in Nepal, bamboo creates a mat-like structure underground, effectively stitching the soil together, it is perfect for fragile river banks, deforested areas, earthquake zones and preventing mud slides,” he said. “In a high landslide prone area like Thangdor, this is extremely necessary. Many of the deaths in Thangdor were caused by landslides. A well chosen part of your business plan.”
Bamboo is sturdy and suitable as construction materials and for making furniture.
Strong but flexible and incredibly versatile, bamboo is an excellent alternative to wood. With a tensile strength of 28,000 per square inch, it’s even a stronger building material than steel. Harvestable in three years for building, bamboo homes only need an eighth of the energy concrete requires to create building material with the same capacity. It is also the quickest growing plant in the world, growing 30 percent quicker than the fastest growing tree. This capacity to regenerate and its yields, which can be up to 25 times more than timber when well managed, makes bamboo an environmentally sound choice. Bamboo homes, light and elastic, are also earthquake resistant.
Ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese healing traditions use the medicinal properties of bamboo. In acupuncture, bamboo secretion is powdered and hardened and used internally to treat asthma and coughs. Black bamboo root is used to treat kidney disease.
Introducing a bamboo recipient Dhuppa Ghale
Dhuppa Ghale, a 40 years old bachelor with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) now being managed with inhalers. His current income is from his three goats. Dhuppa has been selected as one of the vulnerable families to receive “a hand up” as a priority as his poor health prevents him from taking part in any manual labor. He also has land that is not being farmed and available for bamboo.
ROI Cost Per Bamboo Rhizome NPR 100 – 200 ($1-$2). One hectare of bamboo can earn a farmer up to NPR 400,000 annually ($4,000).
Current use of bamboo
Bamboo is currently only used for making baskets, storage for vegetables like potato and as roofing or wall cover for a cow or goat shed.
Who would like to grow bamboo?
Every villager in Thangdor would like to grow bamboo. It has huge potential to transform the village.
Marigolds – an unknown market for Thangdor
There is such a demand for marigolds in Nepal that marigold garlands worth NPR 6 million ($60,000) on average are imported from India to Nepal just for the Tihar festival, the festival of light, the second biggest Hindu Nepalese festival, and with each year the demand is increasing, giving a huge local market opportunity.
Market – who buys marigolds and why?
Marigolds are used for:
Weddings – for decoration, everything from decorating the bridal car to the reception area.
Prayer – Every day during prayer marigolds are placed in Hindu temples; the saffron color of marigolds is sacred to Hindus.
Welcome – Garlands are given to welcome tourists and for special functions such as inauguration.
Medicine – Only the flower heads of marigolds are used medicinally. Used for wound healing and its antiseptic properties. The petals of the marigold have been made into an infusion that is useful as an eyewash.
ROI – Market price for Marigolds.
A packet of 1000 marigold seeds costs $35. The price of a meter of marigold string, 15-30 pieces, costs from NPR 80 – NPR 120 (US$ 0.8-$1.20). Marigolds can be harvested three times per year.
Introducing Nimasai Ghale – a pioneer marigold seed recipient
Nimasai, 50 years old, has been farming for a living most of his life. When the opportunity arises during autumn and spring, he also works as a porter for foreign trekkers. Nimasai loves to serve his community and has been village chairman for 10 years. He is held in high respect by the villagers. His wife, Chhomo, is 38 years old. They have two sons Gyalzen Ghale, 26, and Buddhiman Ghale, 13, and three daughters—Manju Ghale, 17, Sindu Rani Ghale, 14, and Sabitri Ghale, 6. Nimasai looks after his elderly father of 87 years. His mother, the late Gyalmo Ghale was severely injured during the earthquake of 2015 and died a few months later. The UCLA students were able to ask Nimasai questions during their competition research.
Thangdor being a mostly Buddhist community, meant Nimasai was totally unaware of the great market opportunity for marigolds. He was very excited with the idea to grow marigolds and as one of the respected village community leaders, he hopes he will lead by example and his success will encourage other Thangdor villagers to see the that marigolds are a lucrative cash crop to sell in the nearby Hindu towns of Kalikistan and Trisuli Bazzar.
With love and gratitude to the people who have been catalysts of immense positive change for the community and for the students, whose lives have also been transformed by the experience,
Founder, Race 4 Good