Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Uttarakhand Government's promotion to Amla cultivation shouldn't go the Ratanjot Route

Written by Anil Singh

Uttarakhand Government has recently started promoting the amla or anwala (gooseberry) cultivation the the state. The aim is to increase the income of farmers, by exploiting the high medicinal value of the sour- vitamin C rich fruit.

The Government campaign has already been launched in rural areas of the hill state under which the villagers are being told to grow and exploit the crop of 'Anwala' in a planned manner so that it can help increase their income. Like, if Anwala trees are grown on an area of 1,200 sq feet, they can generate at least Rs 5,000 per year, informs the State Government.

Under the campaign, Anwala trees will be grown on 10 hectares of land in each of the 13 districts of the state; and the crop will be used in the making of Trifala powder, Aarogyavardhani vati, Raktashodhak vati, Guggul, Chitraharitiki Avleh, Chyawanprash, shampoo, oil and hair dyes and other Ayurvedic products.

The farmers in the districts of Pithoragarh, Bageshwar, Rudraprayag, Dehradun, Chamoli, Nainital, Champawat, Pauri, Tehri and Almora are involved in the production of Anwala, already. State medicinal board Vice-Chairman Aditya Kumar said an Anwala tree can produce fruits for 50 years if it is provided proper care.

That said -- although the Government initiative looks quite serious; one should pray that it doesn't go the Jatropa or Ratanjot route. That's all the investment made, going down the drain.

Some years ago, Uttarakhand Government tried to promote Jatropa or Ratanjot cultivation in the state. The village blocks were stacked with Jatropa plants; and farmers were encouraged to take them free of cost and plant in their cultivable lands, with an assurance that being a cash crop (is used in Ayurveda medicines and oil is extracted too) they will get buyers easily for their crop.

But, in absence of any proper plan, very few farmers picked plants for cultivation; and those who dared to cultivate and rear them; couldn't' easily find buyers for their crop. The result -- all the money the Government had invested; and the effort and time the cultivators had spent; went down the drain.

Hope that the Uttarakhand Government's promotion to Gooseberry cultivation doesn't follow the Jatropa path. And for that, the Government should work on developing both the logistics and market from the day one. Logistics entail to developing points close to cultivation villages, where farmers can deposit their crops and get the promised cash. Those who wish to get higher prices for their crop, should have ample choice in the form of well developed industry which uses the crop as a raw material. Apart from Ayruveda medicines, Amla is also consumed in the form of Amla Murabba (gooseberry jelly) and Amla juice. Government should also promote such amla processing industries too. In simple, mere encouraging people to cultivate a plant is not enough; providing logistics and market is equally important.

In addition, the whole idea of promoting a particular plant, should also be debated and emerging assertions properly researched as well; especially in ecosystems as fragile as Uttarakhand. The fact that, rare medicinal plants are found in Uttarakhand in the wild; doesn't mean any one plant is proliferated artificially in acres and hectares. This can have adverse effect on the survival of all vegetation in the state; which survive on delicate balance between each other.

Taking into consideration these factors, one good way of increasing the income of people in the state; could be to encourage 'a very mixed' cultivation model, something people of Uttarakhand hills are already practicing since ages, and focusing on quality of produce, logistics and market. The model of Orchards or fields of different fruits and vegetables should seriously be explored.

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