Mountain Hazelnuts: Social Entrepreneurship in Bhutan

By David Hoyt, Hau Lee
2011 | Case No. GS78

Mountain Hazelnut Venture Limited (“Mountain Hazelnuts”) was founded with economic, social, and environmental objectives. It planned to distribute young hazelnut plants at no charge to a large number of subsistence farmers in Bhutan. The farmers would plant the trees in fallow or degraded land, tend them, and sell the resulting nuts to the company at a price negotiated between the Bhutanese government and the company. If successful, this would generate a financial return for investors, greatly increase the cash income of participating farmers, help preserve rural Bhutanese communities, and improve the environment by stabilizing hillsides, reducing erosion, and providing other benefits. Mountain Hazelnuts was the first 100 percent foreign direct investment company in Bhutan.

By early 2011, when the case is set, Mountain Hazelnuts had successfully established a nursery in rural eastern Bhutan, with a capacity to produce millions of plants. It was preparing to distribute its first trees to Bhutanese farmers—a project that would involve 10 million trees over five years, and involve about 15 percent of the country’s population.

This case is intended for use in a course on supply chain management, but can be used in classes focused on the environment, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship (for instance, within a philanthropy course), global business, or business in developing economies.

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