The factory we toured in rural Nepal was modest—three small rooms, dim lighting and minimal equipment. But the tour was followed by a relatively showy display of the end product: the juice of the marmelos fruit that is the pride of the local community. It was brought to us from across the factory yard on a tray covered in bright cloth. The beaming factory worker who carried it bent down graciously to give us each a glass of fresh, rust-colored juice.
The sweet drink—sold under the brand name “Marmelous”—is refreshing, healthy and credited by some with therapeutic powers. And it provides a boost to the economy. Nearly 45,000 bottles are sold annually in the countryside and Kathmandu. More than half of the sales revenue goes to the local producers.
Producing the juice is also a way to protect forests. The trees on which marmelos grows used to be seen mainly as a source of firewood, but about seven years ago, the value of the fruit—about two inches in diameter and encased in a green shell—became apparent to WWF’s Nepal team. They educated community members about the economic and environmental benefits of picking the fruit instead of cutting down the trees, and gave them seed money to create the juice factory.
We sipped juice and chatted with the factory workers, impressed by their success. The Marmelous story is the kind of win-win WWF continually seeks: a simple idea that, with engaged people and some hard work, results in both better incomes for local people and better stewardship of their land.