Allo - A flourishing enterprise for rural entrepreneurs
The indigenous 'Magar' and 'Rai' communities have used the plant--Himalayan Nettle (Girardinia diversifolia), commonly known as Allo as a weaving thread for shawls, blankets, bags and clothes.
With modern textiles replacing the traditional natural fabrics, this age old practice was on the verge of extinction. However, today many women are pursuing this enterprise after the UNDP Micro-enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP) identified Allo as one of the potential raw material for starting an enterprise in 1999.
The entrepreneurs have easy access to raw materials as the plant grows in abundance in high altitude starting from 900 to 2500 metres above the sea level.
The Allo plant is harvested in autumn and winter from community and government owned forests.
Allo thread-weaving provides excellent business and employment opportunities for the landless, marginalised and small scale farmers. Since the weaving of Allo thread involves mostly women, this kind of enterprise has been instrumental in empowering them economically and socially. It has helped uplift the lives of above 1000 poor women, mostly from excluded communities in 20 districts, who are supported by at least 8,000 primary collectors of the plant all over the
country. The per capita income of the new entrepreneurs who got involved in the Allo enterprise has increased by more than 47% in the last 10 years.
Allo thread is increasingly replacing wool as the base raw material for weaving carpets and other handicrafts because it is durable and natural. Almost 120
metric tons of Allo yarn or 80 percent of the total Allo production per year is consumed by the carpet industry.
According to the Handicraft Association of Nepal more than Rs. 4.8 million (US$ 65,753) worth of products made from Allo are exported annually to the
international market which is approximately 3.3 percent of the total textile products exported. The primary producers of Allo either sell the yarn to collectors or they themselves make shawls and clothing materials for sale in Kathmandu shops or also through the Common Facility Centers (CFC) promoted by MEDEP.
CFCs were established in Parbat, Ramechhap, Myagdi, Sindhuli, Pyuthan, Dadeldhura and Darchula districts through MEDEP support and provide management and technical skills training as well as nationwide market linkage facilities.
As a way forward, MEDEP is also seeking forestry certification for the Allo products as the raw material is harvested in an environmentally sound way. The raw materials are derived from community and Government owned forests with the entrepreneurs requiring District Forestry Office permits for its trade.
The Allo enterprise has no doubt contributed a lot in terms of achieving several Millennium Development Goals such as reducing poverty and hunger, empowering the women, enrollment of children in school as the ultimate result of women's empowerment and improved maternal health. The enterprise promotes environmental sustainability by working with forest user groups to promote environment friendly enterprises.