The medicinal plants cultivation project was started in 2019 with support from NABARD. It is being implemented in four tribal villages of Sholayur Panchayat of Attappady block benefitting 100 tribal farmers.
The project is supported by NABARD under the Farm Sector Promotion Fund (FSPF). Arya Vaidya Pharmacy (Coimbatore) provides the technical support for the project. A tri-partite agreement was created between the farmers, Arya Vaidya Pharmacy and the implementing agency for selling the produce at an assured price.
A mother nursery was set-up at the start of the project for the purpose of developing, storing and distributing the medicinal plant saplings.
Nine species of medicinal plants were selected for the project. The nursery houses the saplings/seedlings of these species.
The distribution of saplings and planting was completed for the 50 first-year beneficiaries by the month of November, 2020. For the second-year beneficiaries also, all saplings were distributed by the end of June 2021.
As part of the project, 15 capacity building workshops were conducted over two years. Major topics covered in the workshops were cultivation of medicinal plants, bio-fertilizers and pesticides, micro-irrigation methods, bee-keeping, financial management etc. The instructors for workshops were experts in their respective fields.
Iruveli was the first species to be harvested and sold 8 months after planting. A total of 330 kgs were sold by 12 farmers in the first sale. Officials of Artha Herbs and Derivatives Ltd., (subsidiary of Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, Coimbatore) collected the produce from the village and paid the amount to the farmers in cash. This gesture by the AVP was a relief to the farmers in the times of COViD-19 restrictions. This also helped in motivating other farmers to take up medicinal plants’ cultivation. Sale of plant products has been held subsequently as and when the harvest of products is undertaken.
In addition to the project activities, 50 farmers of Vellakkulam and Moolagangal villages were provided with various farm tools like Garden Manvetty, Hand Sprayer, Reflective Ribbon etc. and Bio fertilizers with help from Kerala Agriculture University. Two farmers of Vellakkulam and Moolagangal also received a machine that was developed in KAU to drive away wild animals from agricultural plots.
All the farmers were organised into Joint Liability Groups(JLG) and linked with banks for enrolment under Kisan Credit Card.
A Project Implementation and Monitoring Committee (PIMC) has been formed comprising of the NABARD District Development Manager, Lead Development Manager, CANARA Bank, Representatives of Agriculture Department, Panchayat, and Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, farmer representatives etc. The committee met regularly, reviewed the progress of the project, and suggested corrective measures. The members of the committee also interacted with the beneficiary farmers.
Visit of DGM NABARD: On 16th March 2021, Smt. Usha P T, Deputy General Manager, NABARD (Kerala Regional Office) along with Sri. Lalu P N Kutty, DDM, NABARD (Palakkad) visited the project area. The aim of the visit was to review the activities of the project and interact with the beneficiary farmers. The interaction was attended by farmer representatives from Moolagangal, Vellakkulam, Oothukkuzhy and Chavadiyoor villages. The DGM NABARD talked about the importance of credit linkages and future plans of the project. She also explained the concept of Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) to the farmers.
The project will be completed in December 2021. In order to extend the benefits of the project to more tribal farmers, a scaling up plan has been drawn up. The plan involves recruiting more tribal farmers into medicinal plant cultivation, inviting other Ayurveda pharma companies for procuring the products, organising the farmers into Farmer Producer Company (FPC), credit linkage of farmers to banks etc. Officials of Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala visited Vellakulam village, interacted with the farmers and put forward a buy back arrangement with them. A leading Multinational Company has provided support for the farmers to start cultivation at a larger scale. A project to establish irrigation facilities for a majority of farmers is also starting in Vellakulam with help from the MNC.