Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1292–1301 | Cite as

Economic development through medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) cultivation in Hindu Kush Himalaya mountains of District Swat, Pakistan

  • Hassan Sher
  • Mary E. Barkworth


Poverty is pervasive in the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan, and most people survive by farming small landholdings. However, many supplement their meager subsistence earnings by collecting and selling plant material for use in herbal medicine. This material is wild-harvested, but collectors seem not to fully appreciate the potential value of the plant material they collect nor the longterm impact their collection has on local plant populations. A model project supported by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) persuaded small-scale farmers in four different villages to use some of their land for cultivating traditionally wild-harvested species of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) with high market value. The farmers were provided seeds or rhizomes of five MAPs and asked to monitor their germination and growth on 25 m2 plots during a 12 month period. At the end of the study, growth and yield data from the four localities were compared and economic analyses conducted to determine the profitability of the species based on yields, prevailing market prices, and costs of production. Five of the cultivated species were subsequently marketed and their value evaluated: Sesamum indicum, Linum usitatissimum, Ocimum basilicum, Nigella sativa and Viola pilosa. The MAPs V. pilosa and O. basilicum were the most profitable, whereas Nigella sativa was the least profitable because of its low germination rate. The net income from all but Nigella was higher than that would have been earned by planting the same area with the predominant cereals or tomatoes. In addition to demonstrating the feasibility and financial benefits of cultivating MAPs as a cash crop, this model study identified a number of additional steps that would increase the benefits of MAPs cultivation in this area. A combination of specialized education, market infrastructure development and a small loans program would enable farmers to increase their agricultural income without damaging the area’s plant diversity.


Biological diversity Medicinal plant Aromatic plant Agriculture productivity Traditional crops Economic analysis Himalaya Mountains 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Plant Sciences and BiodiversityUniversity of SwatMingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ProvincePakistan
  2. 2.Intermountain Herbarium, Department of BiologyUtah State UniversityLoganUSA

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