ALLO (Nettle) FARMING IN NEPAL
Allo, is tall, stout and erect herb also known as Himalayan nettle. There are numerous slender stinging hairs on the aerial part. It grows wild under the forest from east to west canopy between the altitudes ranging from 1200 to 3000m in moist, fertile and well-drained soil. In mature conditions, stems shoots up to 10–11 feet high under favorable conditions. Its bark stem contains bast fibers of premium quality – strength, smoothness, and lightness, and a silk – like luster appears when properly processed.The longest fiber in the plant kingdom is found up to 580 mm in fiber length. In the early stages the leaves are simple and alternately arranged and in the later stages of development the leaves become 3 – 7 lobes. The length of the leaf varies between 10 and 35 cm.
Generally, the fiber obtained from Allo’s bark has been used for a variety of woven products, such as clothes, bags, porter strap,home decore, sacks,table clothes,blanket etc. and are marketed in Kathmandu and are also exported to foreign countries such as the USA, Japan ad other parts of the world.
The most suitable season for harvesting the Allo plant is from August to December. The plant harvested in this time gives a white and good quality fiber. The Stingy nature of Allo plant discourages local communities from harvesting it because they do not have gloves and use only a thick piece of cloth to protect their hand . Community prefers harvesting Allo plant during the winter season, when Allo’s stinging force is reduced by the cold .The bark is removed and peeled after cutting the plant.
Processing of Allo
- Collection of allo shrubs
Although the entire process of extraction followed by the social groups appears to be a primitive and simple process,it is a painful task.The men forage the area at the time the of October – November and harvest the allo shrubs.The shrubs are selected on the basis of the well–developed stout stem from which the bark bearing the fibers are later ripped off.
- Extraction of fibers
The men strip them of their bark after the shrubs are brought down, with the help of a sickle or in some cases, peeling them with bare hands and laying them in the sun for 3-4 days to dry.It is the turn of women folk next, boiling the bark in water containing ash for about three hours, depending on the amount of fiber.The ash is known to make the bark soft and easier to separate the fiber individually.
Retting is the main challenge faced during the processing of bast plants for the production of long fiber. The traditional methods for separating the long bast fibers are by dew and water retting. Depending on the water temperature and mineral content, high–quality fibers are obtained through a water retting process that takes 14 to 28 days to degrade.
- Separation of fibers
After this, The retted stalks are are dried in open air after which it is ready to use. The fiber is then mixed with crushed limestone to make it a little greasy and easier to handle. The fibers obtained from these known processes , however, may not be sufficiently separated from each other and/or may have characteristics that do not always permit appropriate use in the textile industry. The long fibers are then separated from the shortened ones and the remaining woody material removed by a process termed as hackling before the fiber is ready for being spun.
- Spinning and weaving
A wooden top or charkha (spinning wheel) is usually used for spinning yarn. In som e cases, the fiber is rolled around the waist and the free end is fastened between the teeth. One hand rapidly rolls down the fiber through theteeth, acting to the spinner as a filter – on. The fineness of the yarn depends largely on the spinner’s fiber quality and ability.The obtained thread is suitable for the manufacturing of of cloth , sacks, bags , head–straps (namlo), rope, fishnet, etc.
ECONOMIC VALUE OF ALLO
Allo thread – weaving provides the landless, marginalized and small – scale farmers with excellent business and employment opportunities . Since Allo thread weaving involves mostly women, this type of enterprise has been hugely influential in economically and socially empowering them .It has helped elevate the lives of over 1000 poor women, mostly from excluded communities in 20 districts, supported by at least 8,000 Primary collectors of the plant all over the country.In the last 10 years, the per capita income of the new entrepreneurs involved in the Allo business has increased by more than 47 percent.
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.
The Allo business has undoubtedly made a significant contribution to achieving several Millennium Development Goals such as reducing poverty and hunger,empowering women,enrolling children in school as the ultimate outcome of empowering women and improving maternal health.The enterprise promotes environmental sustainability by working with forest user groups to promote environment friendly enterprises.