PICS: BIKRAM RAI
When Carroll Dunham visited Humla 25 years ago as an anthropologist, she was fascinated by the healing techniques that local women practiced.
She was inspired to establish Wild Earth Nepal in 1999 with the aim of helping communities in the Himalayan region generate sustainable income.
Today Wild Earth Nepal produces a wide range of handcrafted herbal goods such as soaps, massage oils, pillows, smudge sticks, and aromatic amulets. The products are sold to customers in over 30 countries including Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Trump Hotels and The Body Shop.
Nepal is knwon for traditional Ayurvedic medicines, after all, this was where Hanuman came to look for a potion that would cure the wounded in Ram's army when he invaded Lanka. But Nepal also has good brand value in the west for its Himalayan products.
Wild Earth organisation also makes use of traditional therapies and offers unique spa treatments to its customers.
"We don't need to borrow foreign massage techniques as Nepal is very rich in ancient touch therapies," says Dunham.
Until recently most of Wild Earth's clients were foreigners, however urban Nepalis are slowly warming up to the products.
Wild Earth stays true to its mission by working with remote and economically fragile mountain communities while purchasing herbs directly from the source, by passing middlemen, so farmers receive maximum income for their raw materials. In addition to helping villagers earn sustainable incomes, Wild Earth teaches them better and safer processing techniques. The company also has a strict policy against using rare, endangered or improperly harvested plant products.
In its effort to be socially responsible, Wild Earth regularly provides massages at the Bal Mandir and the old age home in Pashupati and has been donating to charitable causes.
Dunham is content with the work her organisation has accomplished so far and attributes its success to the commitment of the people involved.
She is hopeful that the future will bring new opportunities and says, "Wild Earth Nepal has only been a mediator in introducing Nepal's rich indigenous healing techniques and herbs to rest of the world. But the country's abundant natural resources are yet to be fully explored."