For several years the trees were mortgaged to private moneylenders

While travelling by car on highways we usually come across huge tamarind trees on the wayside.

“But how many of us know that several of these trees are mortgaged to local money lenders in the area. Even for plucking the leaves one needs to obtain permission from the local bigwig of the area,” rues Dr. P. Alagesan, Mysore Resettlement and Development Agency (Myrada) KVK Programme Coordinator.

Steady income

In Bargur hills region of North Erode there are a number of tamarind trees that provide a steady income of Rs 2,000- Rs. 3,000 per tree during the season. The trees are quite sturdy and last even for 100 years.

During harvest time it is the usual practice for farmers and goat rearers to take some advance amount from local money lenders for harvesting the fruits.

The moneylenders advance a few thousand rupees with only one condition that the entire amount must be repaid in one lump sum and instalments would not be accepted.

This way they could keep the tree permanently under mortgage as the person taking the loan amount can never pay it back in full.

Long story

This situation prevailed for more than 20 years in the region when Myrada KVK at Erode took up the cause on hearing about this from one of the debtors.

The KVK formed people’s SHG’s or federations called (Sarva Shakti) in the region and discussed the issue to free the tamarind trees. It was realised that there was a need for financial support to release tamarind trees under mortgage.

Accordingly, Myrada arranged a working capital assistance (as an interest free loan) to some persons with the assistance of Nabard.

Loan advance

Except for bank loans to individual members, all loans were routed through the federation, (locally called as Sanghas) organized by Myrada.

The federation advanced loans at Rs10,000 per member at an interest of 18 per cent per annum to redeem the trees.

Over the years, the federation has accessed loans from local commercial banks and other financial sources.

“It has been a long journey since 1993. The movement which was started with two groups called Basaveshwara Sangha in Thattakarai region and Veerbhadraswamy Sangha in Thamarakarai region motivated and enabled 30 groups from 19 villages in Bargur hills to avail loans from the federation.

“It also provided financial support to tamarind farmers and the process of redeeming them from the hands of money lenders was successfully completed,” says Dr. Alagesan.

Many trees that were under bondage for more than 15-20 years were freed by this approach, which enabled several farmers and SHG members to come out of debts.

Earning potential

Today families that have been able to de-mortgage their tamarind trees are able to earn Rs. 4,000-Rs. 5,000 a year by selling 200-250 kg processed tamarind in the market.

Further, seeds and rind removed during processing are also sold and the income from these is utilized for paying the labour of 21 man days required for manual processing that costs Rs.1,350.

So far the federation with Myrada’s help has been able to de-mortgage 455 tamarind trees of 30 SHGs groups in 19 villages in Bargur hills.

Rural mart

It has also de-mortgaged 38 tamarind trees of tribal SHGs at Sholakanai village and helped them earn Rs1.71 lakh in a year. It helped in the establishment of rural mart supported by Nabard.

Those interested in knowing more can contact Dr. P. Alagesan, Programme Coordinator, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kalingiyam P.O., Gobichettipalayam, Erode district-638 453, Email: myradakvk@dataone.in, azhagujanani@yahoo.com, Phone: 04285-241626; 241627, mobile: 09443897654.