Income Generation through High-Value Cash Crops, Horticulture, and Beekeeping

Developing realistic opportunities for income generation is one of the most challenging tasks of development in mountain areas like those of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region. People in mountain areas are faced with numerous physical and social constraints that restrict the development of large-scale cultivation of a single cash or food plant. On the other hand, mountain areas can offer special opportunities. The presence of diverse, rich, and complicated niche areas – areas which as a result of their specific terrain and climate are ideal for growing specific crops – provide mountain people with unique opportunities for developing some cash plants.

Cultivation of cash crops has proven a useful and effective method for increasing income in mountain areas. Mountain people should focus on the development of high value, low volume crops that can only be grown, or that grow best, in mountain areas. There can be particular advantages in seasonal crops, which grow well in the mountains at times of year when they are scarce in the adjacent plains areas. However, selection of the most appropriate cash crops for a specific area is not easy. There is little information available on cash crops that are specifically suitable for mountain areas; and it is difficult for people who are barely able to maintain their own existence to decide to invest in cash crops before the benefits have been demonstrated. Many of these crops take a number of years to come into production so that individual farmers are not in a position to run their own trials.

The activities at the ICIMOD site focus on testing and demonstrating a range of (mostly perennial) crops and comparing them in terms both of the suitability of the crop for the specific climate and soil conditions and the risks and potentials of the crop product; testing specific methods for the propagation of plant material; and testing the application of different technologies for improving yield. Plants and seeds have been obtained from ICIMOD’s partners in different countries of the HKH. Material from successful trials is passed on to farmers upon request; where feasible, the actual crops are sold locally (providing another means to test the market).