Extending a helping hand to traditional enterprises of tribal communities

Project to protect tribal heritage via various scientific interventions with the participation of tribal communities

The Science Heritage Research Initiative (SHRI), a Union government programme, is extending a helping hand to the traditional enterprises of tribal communities. Taking it up as a major initiative is the renowned Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), which has launched a major project to support the traditional initiatives of tribal communities in Kerala’s Wayanad district. The SHRI has been rolled out in a bid to preserve the country’s rich tribal heritage and ethnic knowledge.

The major objective of the project would be to protect the rich tribal heritage through various scientific interventions with the participation of tribal communities. As part of the participatory approach, tribal self-help groups have been formed in identified locations of Wayanad district, where resources were available and the communities were interested to revamp their tradition and heritage.

Initiative to directly benefit tribal families

Taking the project forward, RGCB Director Prof Chandrabhas Narayana inaugurated a lemongrass oil extraction unit at Valad in Thavinjal Panchayat and a paddy processing unit at Peechamkode in Vellamunda Panchayat over the week-end. Prof Narayana also released the ‘Gau Mithra App’ on cattle diseases and their traditional cures, developed by RGCB’s Tribal Heritage Project team, at a function held at the Paramoola Kurichya tribal family at Peechamkode.

RGCB, with the financial support of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, is also making an attempt to preserve this diminishing tradition under the SHRI programme.

Lemongrass oil extraction has been a long-standing enterprise among the tribal communities of Kerala, who reside near the grassland areas of Wayanad and Idukki. By introducing the steam distillation system, the process of extraction becomes more effective, and the unit members will get better economic returns to improve their quality of life.

Helping tribal communities through scientific intervention

An SHG by the name of Haritha Lemon Grass Oil Unit has been formed for running the unit and RGCB’s Project Team will support the group by setting up a work-shed and providing advanced machinery. The RGCB’s initiative will directly benefit 40 tribal families, and the unit is expected to become a successful business model for community enterprises. The Thiruvananthapuram-based RGCB is an autonomous institution under the Department of Biotechnology.

Besides, a paddy processing unit, Harithasree ST Kootayma at Peechamkode, will help protect the rich genetic wealth of traditional paddy varieties of Wayanad. The RGCB offers support to cultivate traditional paddy varieties across seven hectares of land and create a gene bank of 19 traditional varieties. The Project Team would provide traditional paddy seeds, a common facility centre and paddy processing machines with rubber-bushed hullers.

Meanwhile, the ‘Gau Mithra’ app carries information regarding as many as 16 illnesses cattle are prone to, and the traditional cures for them. The ethno-veterinary app encapsulates a wide range of orally transmitted ethnic knowledge and practices relating to livestock diseases and cures, gathered from the tribal communities of Idukki and Wayanad districts. 

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