While analysing the district wise context in Nepal, Jumla is one of the remote mountainous district facing massive post-harvest losses especially on Apple. For the livelihood subsistence, apple is the most important crop in terms of area, production and household economy in Jumla. But most production units are small and often located in isolated and inaccessible areas where infrastructure such as roads, irrigation and storage facilities are inadequate or completely lacking. With the present increasing trend in the connectivity (road network) in remote high mountains and inaccessible districts such as Mustang, Jumla and Kalikot, there is a great potential for increasing area and productivity of these fruit crops.
Among them, on farm storage of fruits and vegetables (mainly apple) was a major concern in Jumla from value addition prospect. Maintenance of temperature and humidity is a great problem in a mountainous region. In fact, Nepal has been struggling to make radical progress in the field of food preservation (building of cellar store, cold storage, modern collection center,etc;) where R&D in this field has been less. Refrigeration is energy intensive, expensive, not so easy to install and run in remote areas and not always environment friendly. Due to lack of cellar store, substantial amount of apple used to decay after production in Jumla. Market price was not so encouraging.
Hence realizing the critical aspect of apple production, High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP) planned to established apple cellar store at Jumla district. Considering acute energy crisis, the project design and build an economical, eco-friendly, effective and efficient zero energy cellar (a structure which is designed to keep mainly apple then vegetables and some fruits at a stable, temperature and humidity which will prevent them from rotting) by using renewable source of energy (earth) for the community for preserving their farm products for their future use. Hence, the project established zero energy cellar stores at 3 different groups/cooperates i.e. at Mahila Falful Tarkari Krisak Samuha at Taliom, Omgad, Danfe Kalika Krishi Bahuudesiya Sahakarki at Karthik Swami, and Mahila Krishi Bahuudesiya Sahakari Orthu Patmara in Jumla. These constructed units on these area consist interior wall is actually a double wall. Between the two walls there is a layer of gravel and sand. The perimeter of the roof is lined with water pipes. When the water is turned on, it drips down into the sand, which retains the moisture and brings the temperature inside the building down by just a few degrees.
It’s this small temperature and humidity change that makes a big difference. Amazingly, fruit especially apple stored in Zero-Energy units stays fresh for additional five to six months, allowing farmers to sell it well after the harvest period, garnering more profit.
Zero Energy cold storage units are one major part of an overall apple value chain intervention of the project that has directly benefitted 100 households from 3 particular groups and cooperative in Jumla. Ms. Ramila Bhandari (Picture above), is one of the beneficiary who is a pioneer apple producer and active group member of Kalika Krisi Bahuudesiya Sahakari at Kartik Swami, Jumla. According to her, it was very difficult for them to sell apple in local market in the past. They had a practice of feeding unsold apple to their livestock, offering to neighbour and forceful consumption as a main food item. “We had to wait a whole day to sell one doko (30-40 kg) apple and even if, we find someone to buy though the price used to me very nominal (Rs. 10-15 per kg)” she responded. “Now, the project constructed apple cellar store in our group where majority of us (24 households) store apple. I have stored 1.8 tons apple for 4 months and now I have sold NRs. 120 per kg is which is significantly higher than the seasonal price (normal seasonal price-Nrs. 20-25). It is hard to believe”, as she mentioned.
“This is particular change that we found at the individual household level through establishment of cellar store. In addition to this, we have found remarkable changes on apple orchard management, process of consultation with district and project based technician for technical support and increasing apple farm production,” says Mr. Gopal Prasad Shrestha, HVAP, Agriculture Technician. “In an average, each household has been earning Nrs. 20,000 to Nrs. 25,000 from the apple stored in cellar store”, he further adds.
So while the farmer/producer they can’t go back and reclaim their loss of the past. What we can assure that they can recover their loss in the present with increasing volume of production and with effective use of cellar store which increase their net income in general and build better futures particular.