Green gold

In agriculture, Medicinal and Aromatic plants (MAPs) are commonly called “green gold”, as they provide the producers with opportunities to earn hand cash. Since time immemorial such plants have been grown in Nepal, and they have high social, religious, cultural and economic value in our communities. The Department of Plant Resources has reported 700 plant species to have medicinal properties. Of them, 238 plants species have been chemically tested for their medicinal importance in Nepal.

MAPs can hugely contribute to the local and national economy. In hilly regions, in particular, MAPs can dramatically help in improving the livelihoods of the people. The financial contribution made by Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), especially medicinal plants, is significantly higher compared to the timber products. MAPs are a highly valuable agriculture commodity. They are providing employment opportunities and money to the growers, helping in ensuring food security in the mid and high hills of Nepal. At present, more than 75 per cent of Nepalis still depend on herbal plants as their local source of medicine for their primary health care.

International trade of MAPs can also help in earning foreign currency.

The country, however, is still far behind when it comes to seizing the opportunity to promote this “green gold”. Lack of comprehensive and effective assessment of distribution pattern of commonly and commercially found species, their trade and conservation measures and quantitative assessment of their natural population are the major problems. Hence, a feasibility study for the commercialisation of MAPs is needed to explore their potential to boost the rural economy.

It is imperative that the authorities come up with some concrete plans and policies to scale up the cultivation of MAPs based on the regions they can be grown.  Although this sector of agriculture has enormous potential, farmers are more inclined to farming other agriculture commodities such as cereal crops and vegetable due to various reasons.

Commercialised cultivation of medicinal plants can facilitate the establishment of processing centres and the industries related to it. This particular realm of agriculture has the potential to bring prosperity. So it is high time the government and concerned stakeholders promoted this particular subsector of agriculture by introducing farmer-friendly policies.