Churi — a fruit berry that is found in the hilly districts of Nepal — can generate employment for around 150,000 people if the government can help boost its development.
"Around 50 districts have Churi," according to national programme manager of Micro Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP) Dr Lakshman Pun.
Aesandra butyracea or popularly known as Churi in Nepal can help produce some 17,825 metric tonnes of honey, he said, adding that at the rate of Rs 200 per kg of honey, Nepal can earn around Rs 3.5 billion from Churi — that flowers for three months in a year — honey.
Similarly, it can also help produce 37,245 metric tonnes of butter and herbal soap from Churi could earn the country around Rs 26.81 billion, Pun added. "The total employment generation from the honey and soap production of Churi could be around 150,000," he informed.
Churi is a medium sized tree native to Nepal and is abundantly found in the mountain areas between 300 to 2,000 msl. It can reach heights of up to 20 metres and the seeds from Churi trees produce fatty acid oils that are mainly used as vegetable butter in rural areas.
According to a resource assessment of Churi undertaken by Micro Enterprise Development Programme, out of the 75 districts of Nepal, almost 50 districts are known to have Churi plants.
The geographical distribution extends from Darchula, Baitadi and Dadeldhura districts in the far-west to Dhankuta and Ilam districts in the east. The total number of Churi trees in the country is estimated at 10.8 million, according to MEDEP. The highest number of trees (almost 40 per cent) are found in the mid-western development region, which is followed by far western development region.
These two regions combined account for about 70 per cent of the total number of trees in the country respectively.
There are an estimated 5.6 million Churi trees at fruit bearing stage in the country with the potential to produce 37,245 metric tonnes of butter, the study revealed, adding that there is a huge potential in terms of resource availability to produce Churi butter as well as honey.
The common method followed by micro-entrepreneurs for Churi herbal soap making is based on what is called the 'Cold Process Soap Making'. Herbal soap making is a specialised process with a wide diversity in type of ingredients used depending on the target markets consisting of low end and upscale consumers.
There are various kinds of oils, essential oils, and fragrances available that could be combined by individual entrepreneurs to come up with specific products with unique characteristics.
Churi is mostly collected from community forests in the mountain districts with mid-west region having the dominant share. The main season for collection is July which coincides with the busy rice transplantation season. On an average, a household collects about 50 kg of seed in the season which is sold at Rs 20 per kg.Churi and Allo can help alleviate poverty in the rural areas of the country as they are hilly products and have huge potential in the international market.