Ten herbal farms that restored the economic viability of agriculture: Bringing Tribals together “in a sustainable collective asserting their connection to the land” – Chhattisgarh

Rajni George, OPEN Magazine (Profile), 25 July 2014 | To read the full article and view more photos, click here >>

Jadi booti: literally, roots and plants, the extracts from the roots of plants and shrubs generally defined as herbs, popularly ascribed to India’s many-limbed kingdoms of green

Mythologised, problematised, proselytised, traditional herbs are a national (and international) obsession and a huge industry worth around Rs 9,000 crore [*], according to National Medicinal Plant Board of India estimates. From the verdant, Naxal- ridden district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh where Bastar champagne (a rare beverage made from the sulfi tree) and tasty fruits called kurlu are found, a much-publicised local form of Viagra (a rare indigenous variety of safed musli) has made a name for itself—through a man who has been translating the bounties of the jungle for more than a decade. […]

Tripathi, a bank worker turned agricultural entrepreneur and Bastar boy born and raised, has turned a cottage industry with one farm into a 10 acre, Rs 40-crore-a-year (Rs 10 crore domestic) herbal empire in Kondagaon district: the aptly named Maa Danteshwari Herbal Products (MDHP), extending as far as Ethiopia, Gulf countries and the Netherlands. (The Tribal nature goddess Danteshwari is worshipped in the area.) Functioning as a collective, MDHP employs 300 Tribal families and works with around 22,000 farmers over 1,000 acres.

It all began with a rare variety of safed musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum)a herb with lanceolate leaves found in natural forests from east Assam to Gujarat and abundant here, its roots used medicinally as a source of virility (through the saponins and alkaloids they contain), setting him on a path of 17 years of “organic herbal medicinal and aromatic farming”.
“The biodiversity of this place is so great, endangered species thrive here. There are 60 varieties of safed musli, of which one endangered species grows here [MDB-13 and 14]. I only work with this one,” says the entrepreneur, who has taken bare land back into the folds of the jungle. “I got organic certification from Germany, and Japanese agriculture [authorities] gave me certification that Ecocert [an inspection and certification body established in France in 1991] was not providing at that time.” The products rely on natural pest controls like neem and spiders, and feature ‘gold’ varieties. […]

Bastar has historically been an under- served area in terms of health services. Kondagaon district contains some of the most remote and forested areas in the district,” says Sulakshana Nandi, a healthcare worker of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Indian circle of the People’s Health Movement (a worldwide movement for health and equitable development), who has worked for 12 years in this area. “People are poor and are rapidly losing control of natural resources like forests that they have depended upon for generations. This exacerbates the poor status of health in that area.” Tripathi’s effort is one of the few to bring Tribals together in a sustainable collective asserting their connection to the land. […]

People said, ‘People are committing suicide in agriculture and you are joining?’ But when I was at the bank, I saw the economic viability of krishi(agriculture). If you take the price of land, you have to classify this as expenses. And if there is debit, there is credit.” He chose the Grameen Bank model and studied 17 conventional crops, showing the results to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Loans resulted, and steady if slow growth.

Every year, 20 million tonnes of produce is stored in various storage sheds on Tripathi’s 10 farms; his processing unit is 100,000 sq ft. Agriculture Information, an online and print agrarian resource, mentions Tripathi’s work with varieties of lemon grass (MDL-14) and stevia (MDS- 13 and 14) as well, and boasts of Tripathi’s tie-ups with multinational companies.

Source: Lord of the jungle and the magic potion | OPEN Magazine
Address: https://www.openthemagazine.com/article/india/lord-of-the-jungle-and-the-magic-potion#all
Date Visited: 2 July 2020

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

* Rs 9,000 crore = 9000 x 10,000,000 Indian Rupees (USD 1,341,100,000 at the exchange rate of 15 May 2016; please re-check on Oanda.com/currency/converter)

1 crore (10,000,000 or 1,00,00,000 in the Indian system)

Source: Indian numbering system – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Address: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_numbering_system
Date Visited: Sun May 15 2016 13:31:05 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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