Building women led supply chain of Indian Hazelnut from the forests of Himachal Pradesh
The forests of Himachal Pradesh are rich in seasonal products, with Hazelnuts and Walnuts being the prominent edible seasonal forest products that have significant market potential both within and outside India. The collection and sale of these wild foods can provide a reliable source of income for forest-dependent communities and have the potential to significantly boost their economy.
ISB-BIPP has successfully connected the Pangi and Dhanala areas with the Dry Fruit Basket, a premium store in Hyderabad, to sell the seasonal forest products. The store has a daily average sale of 100 kilograms of the four varieties of Hazelnuts. The demand for these products was leveraged by using their uniqueness and origin as the selling proposition for the Hazelnuts and Walnuts from Himachal Pradesh. Retailers often prefer to test the market by trying small quantities, and the success of the Dry Fruit Basket outlet has led to a large follow-up order. The store has also expressed interest in conducting future sample sales of other seasonal forest products, such as Kala Jeera, herbs, and pine nuts, to gauge market prospects.
The First Sale – Jarhun Nag Self-Help Group, Dry Fruit Basket, and AAK
ISB-BIPP team attempted to connect the forest-dependent communities holding the Community Forest Rights titles with the markets for a collective sale of the Seasonal Forest Products through the Gram Sabhas in Himachal Pradesh. In our first attempt to make a collective sale of nuts to the Dry Fruit Basket store, we brought the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and multiple villages to work together.
In Dhanala, our team gathered Ratna (President), Leela (secretary), and members of the SHG, Santaram Shastri, on 3rd September at the secretary’s house. We designed a process plan to meet the consignment demanded by the buyer. The first shipment from Dhanala comprising of 22 kilograms of hazelnuts and 2 kilograms of walnut oil were respectively sent to the Dry Fruit Basket company in Hyderabad and AAK in Mohali. We discussed feedback on the challenges faced in the past two months while preparing for the sale and addressed the queries of the SHG members. The women of Dhanala, along with the president and the secretary, to constitute two additional SHGs and the existing SHGs, were convinced to include all the women.
A second meeting was also conducted at the secretary’s house. The Women and Child Development (WDC) Cluster Coordinator of Saichu accompanied Ms. Yamini and Ms. Apurva, along with the president, secretary, members, and Santaram.
We elaborated upon the first mile journey and innovative aspects of the process followed to successfully conduct this supply. Ratna, Leela, Santaram, and three other SHG members were working on breaking the hazelnuts, picking and cleaning the kernels, and packing the nuts. We used pine needles and cones for the packaging instead of plastic material, paper, bubble wrap, and cardboard sheets. Santaram suggested the cones be polished to shine in the following order to make them aesthetically pleasing.
In contrast, Ratna suggested they could collect the cones and needles as they fall and dry them separately to save time. After three hours, the hazelnuts were packed, and Ratna stitched a cloth cover for the cardboard boxes, which added authenticity and the feel of a nativity. The hazelnuts were nicely packed in two-sized plastic containers, weighed, labeled, and replaced with the new name ‘Jarhun Nag SHG Dhanala Pangi – Himalayan Hazelnuts’ and couriered to the Dry Fruit Basket store.
The new harvest of hazelnuts was sent to the Dry Fruit Basket for market evaluation, and the lighter color and improved taste were noted. During a discussion about challenges faced by ASHA workers in participating in SHG activities, it was brought to light that missing a day of work would result in loss of income. The workers were assured that they don’t have to attend if they cannot, but it’s important to inform the SHG president, other members, and the ISB-BIPP team. Leela, a SHG member, raised the issue of needing the presence of the president and secretary for bank transactions, resulting in additional expenses such as a taxi ride back to Dhanala after forgetting a stamp. The Cluster Coordinator suggested that such expenses should be shared among all members as accidents do happen. A member asked about the benefits of being part of an SHG, and Ratna explained the advantages, stressing that all women would eventually join an SHG.
Sale at Dry Fruit Basket
We created advertising materials, such as leaflets, tabletop displays, shelf stickers, slides, and videos to promote the sale of freshly harvested hazelnuts at the Dry Fruit Basket store. After the successful sale of the first batch of hazelnuts and walnuts, the store owner was pleased with the products and our advertising efforts. He expressed interest in selling more Seasonal Forest Products and ordered larger quantities of shelled and unshelled hazelnuts and walnuts. DFB has also agreed to sell broken kernels due to the customers’ interest in native products. Additionally, he agreed to sell broken kernels as there was customer interest in native products. The order for shelled hazelnuts was increased to 40 kgs and 120 kgs, and he ordered 40 kgs of shelled walnuts at a rate of Rs. 800/kg and shelled pine nuts to be delivered by the end of September.
To meet the increased demand, two villages combined their harvest. The high interest in these products by consumers demonstrated the market potential for Seasonal Forest Products and the success of our efforts towards linking markets/industries with forest communities. On October 10th, 2022, the hazelnut consignment arrived at the Dry Fruit Basket store, and the owner expressed satisfaction with the nuts’ quality and packaging (using pinecones). He also expressed interest in procuring pinenuts in the future.
We are proud of the results that our collaborative efforts have produced. Our satisfaction stems from the realization that our hard work has culminated in a successful and impactful enterprise. The formalization of the Indian Hazelnut supply chain was a success, with the consignment reaching the store to the owner’s delight and praise for the quality and eco-friendly packaging. Our team continues to strive for further success by seeking out additional stores to sell Seasonal Forest Products.