Agriculture

Kudumbashree units in Kerala promote medicinal plant cultivation

‘Kurumthotti’ (bala) cultivation at Varavoor in Thrissur   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Indonesian-native Mahkota Dewa may not be familiar to medicinal plant growers in Kerala. But Muliyar Grama Panchayat in Kasaragod district is testing the waters with this fruit-bearing plant, said to be effective for lifestyle ailments such as diabetes.

It is among the many medicinal plants that is being cultivated in the district by Kudumbashree, the others being kattarvazha (aloe vera), cinnamon, ramacham (vetiver) and madhura thulasi (sweet tulsi or Stevia) on eight acres. “We are growing Mahkota Dewa on one acre. You can’t eat the fruit raw, as it is poisonous. It is dried in the sun before consumption. Our climate is perfect to grow this plant,” says Iqbal CH, assistant district mission coordinator of Kudumbashree, Kasaragod.

‘Madhura thulasi’ or Stevia cultivation at Muliyar in Kasaragod

‘Madhura thulasi’ or Stevia cultivation at Muliyar in Kasaragod   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Kudumbashree [or the State Poverty Eradication Mission of Kerala Government], which is a community organisation of Neighbourhood Group of women, launched medicinal plant cultivation in 2018. It is managed by Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) or groups of women farmers with four to 10 members.

During 2018-19, 176 JLGs started cultivating medicinal plants in 530 acres covering six districts. As of March 31, 2021, it grew to over 692 acres across seven districts with 878 JLGs involved in it. The area of cultivation has gone up in the last few months with more districts starting their gardens and the existing ones expanding the area of cultivation, says a Kudumbashree official.

Among the varieties grown are thulasi (holy basil), kattarvazha, kacholam (aromatic ginger), turmeric, kasturi manjal (wild turmeric), naikarunam (cowitch or cowage), kurumthotti (bala), brahmi (water hyssop), adalodakam (Malabar nut), mukkootti (little tree plant), koduveli (Indian leadwort), shathavari (climbing asparagus or wild asparagus) and ramacham.

While Kasaragod launched the project only a few months ago, districts such as Thrissur and Kannur have already made rapid strides in cultivating these plants.

‘Madhura thulasi’ or Stevia

‘Madhura thulasi’ or Stevia   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“In Kasaragod it is one of the schemes under KANI or Kudumbashree for Agricultural New Intervention project. Sweet thulasi cultivation began in June and is now on an expansion mode. Its medicinal benefits have been documented, especially in treating lifestyle diseases and for controlling dandruff and hair fall. It is also a permissible ingredient in food products,” Iqbal adds.

Ayurveda hospitals, medicine manufacturing companies and institutions collect the plants, among them being Kottakkal Arya Vaidyasala, Oushadhi, Medimix, Itoozhi Ayurveda Oushadashala and a few cooperative societies, such as Mattathoor Labour Cooperative Society that has been collecting produce from the farms run by units in Thrissur. We are providing koduveli to a leading Ayurveda beauty and healthcare brand, says Deepa KN, district programme manager (farm livelihood) of Kudumbashree, Thrissur.

National campaign
  • The nation-wide campaign to promote cultivation of medicinal plants in the country aims to grow medicinal plants on 75,000 hectares in the next one year across the country. The NMPB has been trying to expand the cultivation because of the huge gap between supply and demand for medicinal plants for manufacturing of Ayurveda medicines. In Kerala, the State Medicinal Plants Board (SMPB) proposes to cultivate medicinal plants on 700 hectares as part of the campaign. The Board promotes the cultivation of 21 species of medicinal plants.“Our plan is to grow plants on 1,500 hectares this year and the 700 hectares is included in this. Nearly three lakh seedlings have already been distributed towards this free of cost,” says Hrideek. Different local self government bodies and Government institutions have collected the seedlings. “Not many people know about SMPB gives subsidy for growing medicinal plants. Besides income generation for the farmers, we propose to save those species that are on the verge of extinction,” Hrideek adds.

In the district, 219 JLGs grow medicinal plants on 170.93 acres, which include turmeric, koduveli, thulasi, ramacham, shathavari, aloe vera and brahmi. “Kurumthotti, the latest addition, is being grown by a five-member JLG at Varavoor on 2.5 acres. It was planted in June and will be harvested by December,” says Greeshma CV, block coordinator.

In Kannur, the cultivation is part of tribal development programmes and is now in its third phase of expansion. “We started it on three acres at Vathilmada tribal hamlet. Adalodakam, kurumthotti and chethikoduveli were the varieties cultivated by the 10-member JLG. In addition, they generated revenue by selling the saplings of ramacham, thulasi, cheroola, chethikoduveli, adalodakam and shathavari,” says Neethu KC, district programme manager (tribal).

‘Adalodakam’ (Malabar nut) cultivation by a Kudumbashree unit in Kannur

‘Adalodakam’ (Malabar nut) cultivation by a Kudumbashree unit in Kannur   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In 2020, cultivation started on another 15 acres spread in the panchayats of Aralam, Naduvil and Payyavur. “They have received subsidies from the State Medicinal Plant Board (SMPB). As the third phase, ramacham cultivation began on eight acres this year. In addition, under the general category of JLGs, cultivation of naikurna has started on four acres,” she adds.

Besides giving subsidies, SMPB has been giving planting material to Kudumbashree, says TK Hrideek, CEO, SMPB. This will be included in the national campaign by the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) to promote cultivation of medicinal plants in the country as part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (see box).

Medicinal plant cultivation at Attappady in Palakkad

Medicinal plant cultivation at Attappady in Palakkad   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

At Attappady, the tribal block in Palakkad district, iruveli (fragrant swamp mallow), aloe vera and wild asparagus are grown on 70 acres. Also, the tribals, especially from the Kurumba community, are engaged in procurement and sale of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) that include medicinal plants such as ottila, moovila (sticky-pod weed), mudathekku, kunthirikkam (Frankincense), chunda (Turkey berry), kurumthotti and cheenikka (soap pod or shikakai). “The products are handed over to Kurumba society, which in turn sells it to various pharmaceutical companies. Our role is to mobilise funds and provide required facilities for the JLGs,” says Shaiju E, project coordinator, Attappady Comprehensive Tribal Development Programme.


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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 5:58:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture/kudumbashree-medicinal-plant-cultivation-kerala/article37017570.ece

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