At a time when the district, once considered as a haven of bio-diversity, is fast losing its indigenous plant species, the Kolam tribal women of Jeeyarnagar in Utnoor mandal have unwittingly taken a big step towards the preservation of one of the fast disappearing fruit ‘usiri’ or amla, by planting 20 trees of the native variety in their fields. The district has lost almost 140 varieties of cotton and over 30 that of rice among others, before anybody realised what was happening.
Tekam Jamunabai is among the Kolam women from the tiny Jeeyarnagar hamlet near Birsaipet on the Utnoor-Jannaram road who have planted the goose berry saplings. She sells only a meagre quantity of the fruit collected from the trees grown in the nearby wilds to the travellers. Usurkalu (as she calls amla in the Kolami dialect) is much good in demand, especially the small-sized ones.
“We could make a handsome income by selling the seasonal fruits, if we had more number of trees,” says Atram Seetabai, who also sells the budim pandu, a variety of cucumber found exclusively in Adilabad. These fruits are grown on the hedges of the houses in tribal villages.
Among the local variety of fruits still found in the Agency area is papaya and among the vegetables is Adavi Kakarakaya or the wild variety of bitter gourd and a few types of lentils and beans. The maize and jowar, those were cultivated by the aboriginal tribes for personal consumption here, are also the native variety.
The advent of hybrid seeds in the 1970s has seen many local varieties of food grains and wild fruits vanishing from the scene. There, however, is some hope of the revival of the bio-diversity, if interventions are made in the form of creating a seed bank as part of the upcoming Tribal Musuem at Jannaram.
Last year, there were reports that an NGO was purchasing all local variety seeds from the poor tribal farmers, especially in Kerameri mandal by paying them hefty sums. The organisation was accused of acting on behalf of hybrid seed companies.
The tribal women of Jeeyarnagar in Utnoor mandal plant 20 trees of the native variety each in their fields