The SHG has been earning a monthly income of Rs. 5,000

Wayanad is a land of spices.

“The agricultural market strength of the region is highly influenced by the fluctuation in production of spices.

“The productivity of spices, especially black pepper, has declined over the years due to various problems of which foot rot of black pepper is one. In the era of promotion of bio-safety and quality products, the farmers are resorting to eco friendly plant protection techniques,” says Dr A. Radhamma Pillai, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Ambalavayal, Wayanad, Kerala Agricultural University.

Enhance opportunities

Moreover Wayanad KVK wanted to enhance economic opportunities for tribals of the district by utilising their labour.

For empowerment of farm women, rural transformation and employment are considered important. But the pace of diffusion of technologies was not commensurate with the pace of information generation, mainly due to the poor accessibility, lack of knowledge, and little motivation on the part of farm women.

Inspite of this, Wayanad KVK adopted a sustainable livelihood approach by mobilising tribal women who had lost their livelihood by getting displaced from their agricultural land which was acquired for a major irrigation project.

This provided a gender responsive learning environment in the laboratory for meaningful translation of lab to life, and hence helping rural productive transformation. In India, more than 70 per cent of the area under black pepper is confined to the Wayanad district in Kerala.

One of the major factors attributed to the low productivity of pepper compared to the potential yield, is the high incidence of foot rot disease caused by a fungus called Phytopthora capsici.

“It was during the late 90’s, that Wayanad KVK intervened in the crisis through campaigns and training sessions and later identified and isolated the biocontrol agent, called Trichoderma, from soil and started its production for the effective management of the fungal disease,” says Dr. Radhamma.

Increased demand

As Trichoderma gained popularity, to meet the increased demand, scientists speculated about its mass production.

“In an attempt to explore this as an exemplary opportunity for technological empowerment of tribal women, we had a discussion with the Tribal Development Department and the idea was highly appreciated by them. Following this, we conducted a technological feasibility and economical viability study, which proved promising. We then advertised in dailies about vocational training to be conducted solely for tribal women (youth).

Also for identification of good training we were in constant touch with the Tribal Development Department. There was good response and our KVK received many applications,” she explains.

Selection

A wealth rank analysis of the trainee applications was conducted and the economically weaker candidates were selected.

“The analysis was conducted scientifically to assess the economic status of the candidates as we were of the view that economic empowerment will definitely help to improve the socio–economic conditions of the tribal women/ their family and thus improve their overall living standards,” says Radhamma.

Thus a tribal group of 13 girls was targeted with an idea of generating self employment to the tribal youth of Nellarchal tribal colony.

Thereafter, they were given training for six months’ in the production of biocontrol agents such as Trichoderma and Pseudomonas and were finally registered as a self help group (SHG) called 'Sabari'.

During the training programme extension classes were organized an d social awareness and leadership training conducted that helpedhem gain self-confidence.

The biocontrol agents are being mass multiplied and distributed through a revolving fund mode employing these trained SHGs under the direct technical supervision of KVK specialists as well as by utilizing the facilities at the Kendra office in Ambalavayal. The members of the SHG gained 35 per cent of the total benefit on an MoU basis with the Kendra.

Income

The SHG has been earning a monthly income of Rs. 5,000 which revolutionized the income pattern of their family.

The vibrant tribal SHG could assure 55 tonnes production of both the bioagents from 2005-2010 which fetched an income of 38.50 lakhs and has received about 13.48 lakhs.

Apprised of the success of this venture, the State Planning Board sanctioned Rs 36.39 lakhs for modernizing the existing bio control lab under the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY) for large scale production of the two bio control agents.

For more details readers can contact Dr A. Radhamma Pillai,Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Ambalavayal P.O.,District Wayanad-673593,Email: aradhammapillai@gmail.com and kvkambl@gmail.com, Ph: 04936- 260411 and 04936-260432, mobile: 094950 16538.