Bel products give locals new avenue of earning

Himalayan News Service

Bardiya, April 2:

Residents of Deudhakala-3 Thumani village have started to generate substantial income through the sale of Bel squash and jam. The Thumani Bel Development Group has played an important role in the commercial production of Bel products. Jaya Bahadur Chand, chairman of the group, said that an NGO gave necessary training to 22 farmers in the district among which only eight are pursuing the business. Dhansara Rijal, one among the 22 trainees, said, "After we started making different products out of this fruit, villagers have become employed. We are happy to see villagers working, though the income is little."Locals pick the fruit from the local community forest and the Bel Development Group buys it for six rupees per kilogram. However, the price of the fruit varies according to the climate.Raj Bahadur Shahi, a student of class six at the local school, brings bag full of Bel back from school. He said, "I earn Rs 20 to 25 daily from the sale of the fruit and this has helped me in my studies. Whatever I save, I give it to my mother, which she uses for the house."Chairman Chand said, "There are many Dalit families in the village. We just wish that this programme benefits them a little. We are encouraging them to pick the fruit from the forest."Villagers started to make jam and squash from BS 2058. But the sale really started from last year.

Durga Devi Dhakal, a member of the group, said, "The Department of Measurement and Quality Control stopped the sale of the products saying that the group was not officially registered. But we have registered this year and are hoping that the loss we faced last year would be compensated this year."The group has targeted to sell the products at Katarniya, Baansgadhi Bazaar, Kohalpur and Nepalgunj. Chairman Chand added, "We do not have a market problem. There is a big industry to manufacture bel products in Itahari and we are talking about possible export of bel paste. If the talks conclude positively, it would be a boon for local residents."The group is also thinking about making chyawanprash from Harro, Barro, and gooseberry found in the forest. Currently, four members of the group are involved in making the products while four search for markets. Only 70 bottles of squash on an average are sent daily for sale and one bottle costs Rs 60 to Rs 70.Local Dhan Bahadur Chand said, "After I started having the squash, my health problems like stomach ache and urinary tract disease have disappeared."