Low Cost Farming Solutions for Poor Farmers: Cooking Fuel



Cooking fuel is a huge issue is most of the developing world, and has led to deforestation of old growth forests.  Firewood is a huge reason why the people in the global south cut down trees.  Approximately 50% of energy is used for cooking fuel in the developing world.  Deforestation in these countries lead to several environmental damages including soil erosion and change in climate.


Here are some solutions that can be implemented by poor populations in order to solve the cooking fuel problem.

  1. Fast Growing Trees: Fast growing trees such as bamboo or acacia are a great solution for firewood.  The regrowth of these trees is fast enough and can be used in a sustainable way as firewood.
  2. Grafting: Grafting is also an excellent solution to speed up a tree’s growth.  This consists of adding a stem (scion) onto a mature stump, by taping the two together.  This process re-uses a mature root system from a recently cut tree.  This speed the growth if the stem since it now has a large root system.
  3.  Solar Cooking: Solar cooking is especially a great solution for hot countries in Africa and South Asia.  Cheap aluminum foil can be used to reflect the sun’s heat to cook food.  This is a sustainable solution and does not require cutting down trees.
  4. Cow Manure Patties:  Cow manure patties are used in India and make a great methane based fertilizer, however this could reduce soil nutrients.
  5. Improved Cooking Stoves:  Improved cooking stoves such as the Kenyan ceramic jiko stove, which reduces the need for firewood.
Low Cost Farming Solutions for Poor Farmers: Cooking Fuel

Low Cost Farming Solutions for Poor Farmers: Soil Erossion


Soil Erossion


Soil erosion is one of the biggest challenges facing the developing world today.  Soil is known as the thin “skin of the earth” that supports all life on earth.  For this reason a loss in soil can result in the loss of a whole civilization.  Once soil is lost, it takes a century just to make 10-25 mm of soil from bedrock.  Currently farmers in Africa and around the world are having issues with soil erosion, especially farms on hillsides.


Some low cost solutions to soil erosion/degradation

  1. Minimize Soil Disturbance: Using a hole or a plow can result in long term damage to the soil structures and have an affect on the living organism (ie, worms) in the soil.  “No till” agriculture is a way to prevent soil disturbance and reduce soil erosion.  
  2. Cover Crop/Crop Residue:  To avoid soil erosion, it is vital for farmers to make sure the soil is never left bare.  Bare soil not only results in weeds, but also allows rain and wind to erode the soil of it’s nutrients.  Any type of crop (ie, legumes) can be effective in adding nutrients to the soil along with preventing soil erosion.  Simply planting directly into previous crop residue with dead roots is another way to prevent soil erosion, and does not require any labour.
  3. Tied Ridges:  Tied ridges are great for preventing gully erosion.  Tied ridges are very simple and easy to create yet very effective since they prevent water runoff and keep nutrients where needed.
  4. Alley Cropping on Hillsides:  Alley cropping is planting rows of trees or shrubs between rows of annual crops.  This is very effective in preventing runoff and maintains soil quality since the tree roots keep the soil in place.
  5. Inter-cropping: Inter-cropping is a great solution for many reasons.  Planting a whole variety of crops together is effective in adding different nutrients to the soil.  For example, planting maize, cowpea, melon, and soy all together nourishes the soil since all crops add and take different nutrients from and into the soil.


Low Cost Farming Solutions for Poor Farmers: Soil Erossion

Low Cost Farming Solutions for Poor Farmers: WEEDS!



When in comes to farming in the Global South, weeds are a huge hidden problem to poor farmers.  Weeds are simply known as unwanted plants that are very invasive and compete with other crops for nutrients, sunlight, and water.  Weeds reduce crop yields by a tremendous amount.  In Africa, 25-100% of all crops are lost due to weeds.  On a global scale, over $95 billion in US dollars are lost every year due to weeds, with 70% of these losses occurring in the Global South.  Another huge issue with weeds is that women spend 50% of their time weeding by hand.  There are also female labour shortages due to issues like HIV Aids and malaria, this results in a reduction in child literacy, since children are then taken out of school to help out on the farm.  Controlling weeds is huge solution to these problems.


However, there are some simple solutions to this problem.  Some of these solutions are listed below.

  1.  Early Season Weeding: Weeding before and after weeding can be very effective in terms of giving other crops a head start.  It is also important to weed remove weeds until the late growing season in order to produce higher crop yields.
  2. Planting Crops at High Density: Planting crops at a high density helps to keep weeds out by providing very little space for weeds to propagate.
  3. Application of Thick Mulches and Crop Residue: Applying mulch or leaving crop residue in the soil is a great way to suppress weeds.  This prevents the soil from being bare.
  4. Plastic Cover: A plastic cover for vegetable gardens is not only a cheap but also a very effective solution in suppressing weeds.
  5. Transplanting: Planting crops elsewhere and then transplanting them to an outdoor location is also an easy solution.  This is a great advantage for the crop being planted since by the time the crop is transplanted, it is mature enough and takes up space which helps to suppress weeds.
Low Cost Farming Solutions for Poor Farmers: WEEDS!

Nepalese Aloe Vera/ Ghyu Kumari

Aloe Vera


History, Geography, Ethnography of Aloe Vera

Aloes are unique plant species that belongs to the Liliaceae family and takes their origins in countless African countries (Park & Lee, 2006, p. [Page #1])  The word aloe is derived  from the Arabic word alloeh and the Hebrew word halal, both of these terms translate to a “bitter substance” (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #211]).  Ferox is a Latin word for “wild”, and vera is from the Latin verus meaning “true” (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #211]).  There are at least 600 aloe species worldwide, and have been used as medicines in several countries for thousands of years (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #209]). Aloes date back to ancient times and have even been used by two Egyptian queens for beauty aid (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #211]).  Aloe barbadensis and Aloe arborescens are the most commonly known and used aloe species and are prevalent throughout the world (“The Complete Story of Aloe,” n.d.).  The Nepali word for Aloe vera is Ghyu kumari, and is cultivated throughout many districts in Nepal (Yadav, Sah, & Tharu, n.d., p. [Page #1]).  Aloe vera looks like a cactus and can grow as tall as 2 and a half inches to 4 feet, with mature leaves that can weigh up to 3 pounds (“The Complete Story of Aloe,” n.d.). The plant can be harvested removing leaves every 6 to 8 weeks (“The Complete Story of Aloe,” n.d.).   

Nepal country overview

Nepal is a small country located in Southern Asia, between China and India (“Nepal,” n.d.).  The country’s terrain consists of flat river plain of the Ganges in South, central hill region and rugged Himalayas in the North (“Nepal,” n.d.).  The country’s climate varies with elevation, however due to global climate change, Nepal is experiencing changes in weather patterns and a shortage in water supply which is having a tremendous affect on the country’s agriculture production (Malla, 2008, p. [Page #62]).  Nepal is struggling to raise its population out of poverty, but the slow rate of economic growth is acting as a road block to the country’s development (“Nepal Overview,” n.d.).  Despite the slow progress, there is untapped economic potential in Nepal in terms of Aloe vera cultivation (“Kissan Organic Farm,” n.d.).      

Benefits of Aloe Vera

There are several benefits of Aloe vera since it is composed of 200 active components, those of which include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, etc  (“Aloe Vera,” n.d.).   Aloe vera leaves contain clear gel-like substance that is approximately 99% water  (“Aloe Vera,” n.d.).   Some of the nutritional attainments that can be derived from Aloe vera include vitamins A, C, and E, along with all of the 8 essential amino acids, folic acid, chlorine, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, and several minerals including calcium, magnesium, zinc, chromium, selenium, sodium, iron, potassium, copper, and manganese  (“Aloe Vera,” n.d.).   The World Health Organization recognize Aloe vera as a laxative (Ngo, Nguyen, & Shah, 2010, p. [Page #1]).  It is also discovered that the oral intake of Aloe vera can be efficient in lowering blood glucose in diabetic patients, and can reduce blood lipid levels in patients with hyperlipidaemia (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #229]). It is also has powerful healing powers in terms of genital herpes and psoriasis (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #229]).  Further progress in clinical trials suggest that Aloe vera can also be useful with other diseases, including arthritis, gastric ulcer, cancer, AIDS and colitis, however further research needs to be done in order to know the full potential of Aloe vera (He & Eshun, n.d., p. [Page #94]).   

Uses of Aloe Vera

Due to the widespread popularity and benefits of Aloe vera, it has become an ingredient in countless commercialized products including lotions, soaps, shampoos, cleansers, many more (Klein & Penneys, 2008, p. [Page #714]).  The initial use of Aloe vera was in the production of a latex substance for many years as a laxative ingredient (“The Complete Story of Aloe,” n.d.).  However, now the Aloe vera has become a respected commodity and is used as an ingredient in several products (“The Complete Story of Aloe,” n.d.).  Since the clear gel in Aloe vera is rich in amino acids, minerals, and vitamins, it is also used in several foods and drinks for its nutritional contents (“The Complete Story of Aloe,” n.d.).  Medical and pharmaceutical companies also take great interest in Aloe vera for ointments and creams due to its tremendous healing powers (He & Eshun, n.d., p. [Page #94]).

Economic Potential of Nepalese Aloe Vera

It is in Nepal’s best interest to increase the production of Aloe vera to help stimulate the economic growth in the country.  Several Aloe species are well suited for the Nepalese environment and are easy to cultivate (“Kissan Organic Farm,” n.d.).  Some of these varieties include Aloe barbadensis, Aloe arborescens, and Aloe marlothii (Park & Lee, 2006, p. [Page #10,12]).  All of these species grow well on slopes of coastal mountains, rocky ridges and hillsides  (Park & Lee, 2006, p. [Page #10,12])   Nepal’s economy is largely dependent on agriculture, which accounts for 38.15% of its GDP (Malla, 2008, p. [Page #65]).  The topography of the country is divided into mountains, hills, and terai (Malla, 2008, p. [Page #65]).  Out of the 147,181 km2 of total land in Nepal, 3,091,000ha area is used for agricultural production (Malla, 2008, p. [Page #65]).  However, global climate change has caused a tremendous change in the weather patterns in Nepal and has severely affected the agriculture, forestry, human health, and biodiversity in the country (Malla, 2008, p. [Page #62]).  Water availability has also become an issue due to change in weather patterns (Cooke, 2015). For these reasons, Aloe vera is a unique plant that can be cultivated in Nepal.  Since Aloe vera is well suited for areas with a low water availability, and does not require too much effort to grow, it makes it a suitable plant for Nepal to further cultivate (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #113]).  This also makes it a great crop for women to grow and make a sustainable income.  The demand for Aloe vera is steadily increasing as more of its potential and uses are being explored (Herzberg & Gruenwald, 2003, p. [Page #1]). As mentioned earlier, Aloe vera can be used in countless products and have a great deal of nutritional and healing benefits, and for this reason many companies would take interest in Nepalese Aloe vera and there is a large world demand for the crop (Herzberg & Gruenwald, 2003, p. [Page #1]).  

Constraints of Aloe Vera

Despite the benefits of Aloe vera, the overuse of it can be harmful.  For this reason it is vital to get authority such as the International Aloe Science Council (IASC) to approve the the processed products and the  amount of their Aloe contents.  Also, further research must be done on the plant in terms of cures (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #225]).  For example, the overdose can result in nephritis, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea with mucus and hemorrhagic gastritis (Reynolds, 2004, p. [Page #225]).  For this and other safety regulations, approval from IASC is necessary for the use of Aloe vera products.      

Market for Aloe Vera

Nepalese Aloe vera has huge economic potential on the world market.  Countless companies and businesses would take great interest in Aloe vera from Nepal.  The type of companies could range from cosmetic companies to food industries, the demand is grand.  Below are some of the few examples of companies and business that would import Nepalese Aloe vera.

1) Sephora (countless eco-friendly brands)

2) Pharmaceutical sectors

3) Goodness Me (Natural Food Market)


To conclude, Aloe vera is a crop that makes a perfect export product for Nepal.  The uses and potential of Aloe vera are endless, providing not only nutritional benefits, but also countless cures for several diseases.  The world demand for Aloe vera is increasing as more benefits are being discovered.  Both Nepal and Canada can benefit from Aloe vera trade.   


Aloe vera. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2015, from Organic farm in nepal website: http://www.agricultureinnepal.com/aloe-vera

The complete story of aloe vera. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2015, from The International Aloe Science Council website: http://www.iasc.org/aloe.html

Cooke, K. (2015, October 5). Climate-smart villages boost Nepal’s harvests. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://climatenewsnetwork.net/climate-smart-villages-boost-nepali-farmers-harvests/

He, Q., & Eshun, K. (n.d.). Aloe vera: A valuable ingredient for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries—A review. Taylor and Francis Online, 91-96.

Herzberg, F., & Gruenwald, J. (2003). Aloe vera: An international success story; A glimpse of the international aloe market. Gale.

Kissan organic farm. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://www.kisaanorganicfarm.com.np/index.php?Page=Aloevera

Klein, A. D., & Penneys, N. S. (2008). Aloe vera. Science Direct, 714-720. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0190-9622(88)70095-X

Malla, G. (2008). Climate change and its impact on nepalese agriculture. Nepal Journals Oline, 9, 62-71. http://dx.doi.org/10.3126/aej.v9i0.2119

Nepal. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/nepal.htm

Nepal overview. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2015, from The World Bank website: http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/nepal/overview

Ngo, M. Q., Nguyen, N. N., & Shah, S. A. (2010). Oral aloe vera for treatment of diabetes mellitus and dyslipidemia. Gale. http://dx.doi.org/10.2146/ajhp100182

Park, Y. I., & Lee, S. K. (Eds.). (2006). New perspectives on aloe. New York, USA: Springer.

Reynolds, T. (Ed.). (2004). Aloes: The genus aloe. Florida, US: CRC.

Yadav, R. P., Sah, D. P., & Tharu, S. K. (n.d.). Commercial cultivation of high-value medicinal herbs in nepal through adaptation of organic farming methods: Possibilities and challenges in the case of aloevera, stevia and rosemary. Research and Development Centre Nepal (RDC Nepal), Kathmandu, Nepal.

Nepalese Aloe Vera/ Ghyu Kumari