Coffee plantations: A boon to tribal people

Coffee plantations raised in 4,000-odd hectares by the Andhra Pradesh Forest Development Corporation (APFDC) in seven mandals in the Agency area is a great boon to tribal women and men.

In all, 10,000 men and women work during December and January, the harvesting season, and 3,000 women work throughout the year for maintaining the plantations.

The coffee plantations are giving livelihood to 3,000 tribal women with an assured income of Rs.4,500 per month round the year. Each woman is paid a wage of Rs.1,53.40 per day.

In Agency villages, where tribal people lead simple life, Rs.4,500 is a big money for a family. While the women earn this much, the men go for daily wage employment either under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) or under the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) programmes.

The coffee plantations are spread in Chintapalli, G.K. Veedhi, Paderu, Pedabayalu, Araku Valley, and Anantagiri mandals in Visakhapatnam and Maredumilli in East Godavari district. The 3,000 women spread in these mandals are leading a better life and have emerged economically independent.

Drinking problem

Pydathalli, a resident of Anantagiri, working in the plantation says that the money earned by her is more than sufficient to take care of her family of four, who include her husband, a daughter, and a son, who are studying in the tribal ashram school at Pedabayalu. Her husband also goes for work, but earns less. “And he spends it for drinking,” she says. While men do not have the saving habit, the women do save after taking care of the domestic requirement.

“My bank account has saved me from indiscriminate spending of money by family members. Men who drink indulge in money extraction from their wives, but maintaining bank account always saved the day for women,” she adds.

On an average, a family earning is anywhere between Rs.6,000 and Rs.7,000 per month as, in some cases, grown-up children also go for work and add to the income.

APFDC General Manager A.N. Gurumurthy told The Hindu that he was happy that women were emerging economically independent through their year-long employment in the plantations. He said there was no scope for further expansion of plantations in the reserved forest. “The APFDC is proud of women who are instrumental in their coffee product making waves in Europe,” he said.

Mutyalamma, a woman with two daughters and a son, from Chintapalli is happy that that they could save a major chunk of income of the family, which includes her husband and a grown-up daughter. The three members are together earning Rs.8,000 per month.

“Men wasting the earnings on liquor consumption is the real problem. However, this has forced women to seek daily wage work to keep the family going. In the process, women folk are emerging financially independent and assertive,” she said.

Matsyaraju, studying in the tribal ashram school in Paderu, was excited to know that the coffee produced in the tribal heartland was being exported to European countries. Behind the success story of Anantagiri coffee lies the toil of women, men, and grown-up children.

In the case of families with grown-up children, the income is between Rs. 6,000 and Rs. 7,000

APFDC is proud of women who are instrumental in the product making waves in Europe