Staff Reporter

Aims at enhancing economic activities of the tribals

DINDIGUL: Lakshmi Seva Sangam, an ayurveda medicine manufacturing unit of Gandhigram Trust, has plans to buy forest produce directly from tribal people living on Sirumalai hills with an aim of enhancing their economic activities and ensuring sustainable development at tribal villages. Such measures will eliminate middlemen and the real income for their work will reach tribals in full.

This decision was taken at the Cluster Development Coordination Group meeting to evaluate the progress and validate the action plan for the next year of the project SFURTI (Scheme of Funds for Regeneration of Traditional Industries) held at Collectorate here on Friday.

To begin with, the LSS has decided to build the capacity of the tribal people on the hill by forming self help groups and utilising herbs and honey available on the hills.

Presiding over the meeting, Collector M. Vallalar, stated that Glorisa Superba (Kanvali Kizhangu), a medicinal plant, was available in plenty in the district and the LSS could plan effectively to buy it directly from farmers and eliminate middleman.

The Gandhigram Trust could use tribals in Sirumalai in bee-keeping and make a buy back arrangement with them assuring them a regular income.

He suggested the manufacture of eucalyptus oil in the brand name of Gandhigram and develop new packing materials using palm, coconut fibres that would replace paper bags and plastic bags to protect nature and scale down cutting of trees.

In his special address, Lakshmi Seva Sangham Treasurer K. Shivakumar said the main objective of the Trust was to eliminate middlemen and help small and marginal farmers and tribal people who survived on forest produces.

Efforts would also be taken to ensure a better price for forest produces collected by tribals. District Forest Officer should permit the trust to form its own SHGs to build capacities, he appealed. Forest committees under the Forest Department should be strengthened.

The Trust sought for grant of funds to a common facility centre in Kodaikanal to add value to gall nut, cinnamon, cassia and amla through semi processing procedures using SHG groups and also provide space in farmers market to market their products. Cluster Development Executive V. Balamurugan said that the LSS had established 626 artisans, against the target of 500.

While District Forest Officer N. Thangaraj agreed to grant permission to the trust to form SHGs on Sirumalai hill for its capacity building programmes, NABARD Assistant General Manager R. Ramesh assured to offer projects for tribal area under Tribal Development Programme Fund.