The project “Apples for Peace” aims to restore peace and drive out human trafficking in the Helambu region of Nepal.
The Helambu region in Nepal (about 75 kms north-east of Kathmandu) once was famed for its apples. This remote Himalayan district once abounded with apples a-plenty which were then transported out of Helambu and sold all over Nepal. Of late however, the situation has changed, particularly in the Sindhupalchok area, with local apple production dwindling due to lack of infrastructure to transport the apples to Kathmandu and other markets (this has since been addressed through the construction of roads), an outbreak of apple blight in the 1980s and the booming tourism industry absorbing the required labour force.
The absence of the region’s economic staple has led to economic downturn, with many people leaving the region and heading to Kathmandu to find work. The situation has also exacerbated one of the region’s worst, ongoing problems, human trafficking. Sindhupalchok has long been one of the highest affected areas of human trafficking in the country, with young girls in the area being approached by men promising work and subsequently sold into the sex industry in India.
A collective team of researchers and NGOs has initiated the project “Apples for Peace”, an effort to stimulate apple production in the region and repair the damaged economy. Concentrating their efforts on two communities in the region, the team behind Apples for Peace (two European researchers as well as the NGO Aythos) work to provide the tools and knowledge necessary to rebuild the apple industry and last year consulted with local villagers, government officials, agronomists and horticulturalists to determine the best method for rebuilding local apple production, taking into account current economic and environmental factors.
4,400 saplings (3,400 apple and 1,000 apricot) are currently being planted by locals under the supervision of local agricultural authorities who are also providing planting and maintenance training to the locals.
The Helambu region does get a steady stream of trekkers coming through who help bolster the local economy however these numbers pale in comparison to the many thousands of trekkers who hit the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna trails. The reinvigorated apple industry could lead to villagers taking ownership of their local product, help rebuild the economy and create jobs that would encourage locals to stay in the region instead of leave for Kathmandu.
One of the key objectives of the project is to eradicate the trafficking of girls in the area. Research suggests that rates of human trafficking increase during times of economic downturn thereby making the development of a stable and robust economy in Helambu key to wiping out human trafficking in the region.
Each planted tree has a proposed lifespan of 30 years, meaning there is potential for longterm financial benefit with this project. This reinvigorated apple industry could benefit up to 100 families living in the targeted communities as well as lay the groundwork for expanding apple production to other parts of the Helambu region.
Check out Aythos' website for updates on and photos of the project.
Author: Anna Rees/ RESET editorial