Growing hazelnuts (and the economy) in Bhutan

  • Bhutan provides excellent growing conditions, as hazelnut trees are indigenous. Cultivation of the trees allows rural households to generate reliable cash flow and supports the farming culture traditional to the country. Mountain Hazelnuts

  • Farmers, like Gurula, appreciate that hazelnuts are a low-input crop. He became interested in planting the trees after attending a local zomdue meeting and learning about the opportunity with Mountain Hazelnuts. After a visit to the Lingmethang nursery on a farmer’s tour, he was impressed by the company’s nursery facilities. “People there were working so hard, sowing millions of plantlets. And all for the farmers of Bhutan.” Mountain Hazelnuts

  • Mountain Hazelnuts' nursery in Ngatshang, Mongar, serves as a site where plantlets are further weaned and prepared for distribution to farmers. Mountain Hazelnuts

  • In partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), the company provides farmer training and outreach, support in developing local cooperatives, and transport from remote villages to international markets. Mountain Hazelnuts

  • Mountain Hazelnuts, to celebrate the Social Forestry Day on 2nd June, 2015, sent a team who successfully distributed and planted more than 100 trees to the Kilikhar Middle Secondary School. Mountain Hazelnuts

  • On Social Forestry Day, Thinley Mindrup, who works in Distribution for Mountain Hazelnuts, leads a group of students in laying out the orchard on a hill behind the school. Mountain Hazelnuts

  • Interaction between employees and Bhutan's students is an important building block for the success of the company. Planting hazelnuts gives students a hands-on opportunity to learn about land management. Mountain Hazelnuts

  • In their venture, Mountain Hazelnuts will establish close collaborative relationships with local communities, having provided trees, training, and support programs for 15,000 farmer households. Mountain Hazelnuts

“We had never experienced anything like this before,” says Ngawang Choden, a hazelnut farmer from Bhutan. “They were giving trees for free, providing training on how to plant…from the beginning, I knew it was going to be a good opportunity for my family.”

Choden is referring to Mountain Hazelnuts, Bhutan’s first 100% foreign direct investment enterprise ushering the country into the strong international hazelnut market by capitalizing on Bhutan’s ideal growing conditions for hazelnut trees. Rather than chasing profits, though, Mountain Hazelnuts creates shared value for its stakeholders—rural farmers, village communities, and financial investors—by taking a business approach that prioritizes local household income generation, employment, community development, cultural preservation, local ecosystems, and global climate change.

In 2012, blue moon fund made a direct investment in Mountain Hazelnuts as part of its commitment to holistic giving—aligning the foundation’s investment and grant portfolio missions for maximum social and economic impact. Since the majority of people in Bhutan still derive their livelihood from the land, Mountain Hazelnuts presents an opportunity to both strengthen economic development through exports and preserve the country’s agricultural heritage.

After planting her first crop in 2011, Choden has one of the most impressive hazelnut fields in Bhutan.  She also advocates for hazelnut farming to other local farmers. “Some of them are skeptical since it has never been done. But I just show them my field and they become interested,” she says.

Mountain Hazelnuts directly employs more than 500 Bhutanese, many of who are like Choden—rural women without formal education or previous employment. More than 1,200 people in nearby communities also derive their livelihoods by providing supporting goods and services to Mountain Hazelnuts. The company has planted 10 million hazelnut trees exclusively on degraded or fallow land, which actively improves soil fertility, reduces hillside erosion, creates sustainable fuel wood and sequesters CO2 emissions.

For Choden, the most exciting part of hazelnut farming is the opportunity to save money for her children’s education. “My mother often complained, ‘You’re always spending so much time with those hazelnuts.’ And I would tell her, ‘This is for the future, Ama. This is for my children.’”

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