In the rugged Himalayan mountains of Bhutan, farmers are busy cracking the next big opportunity – hazelnuts.

Hazelnuts are endemic in Bhutan, but they have never been grown in a commercial and sustainable scale. Now, tens of thousands of local farmers are planting 10 million hazelnut trees on formerly degraded lands, fallows and mountain slopes.

This is the result of efforts by the Mountain Hazelnuts Group, a business where profits go hand-in-hand with positive effects on livelihoods and ecosystems preservation.

Summarising the group’s operations, the company’s founder and chief executive Daniel Spitzer, said: “We provide trees at no charge, people sell their harvested nuts back to us. We guarantee a floor price and participation in the market as the price goes up.”

To ensure that the hazelnuts are grown in ideal, environmentally friendly conditions, the company employs a special group of about 170 field monitors including female employees who zip around the orchards on motorcycles.

Field monitors help find suitable orchard lands for interested farmers, as well as inspect every tree every 30 to 45 days especially in the early years of cultivation, and are assigned up to 80 orchards each. They do this for the next three to five years until a hazelnut tree starts to bear fruit.

From the financial perspective, a climate-resilient and socially inclusive hazelnuts supply chain may not be an attractive proposition to investors who want quick returns on their money. This business model, said Spitzer, requires “investors who are willing to do a long-term bet”.

“We need to play with our hearts at some level. I’m having fun doing it,” he said.

Very interesting perspective indeed. Read the entire story from here.