Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology started a big project to help tribal communities
As part of the government of India’s Science Heritage Research Initiative (SHRI) to preserve the country’s rich tribal heritage and ethnic knowledge, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) has started a big project to help the traditional businesses of tribal communities in Kerala’s Wayanad district.
As part of the participatory approach, tribal self-help groups were set up in certain parts of Wayanad where there were resources and the people wanted to bring back their culture and traditions.
RGCB Director Chandrabhas Narayana opened a unit to extract oil from lemongrass at Valad in Thavinjal Panchayat and a unit to process paddy at Peechamkode in Vellamunda Panchayat to move the project forward. Tribal people in Kerala who live near the grasslands of Wayanad and Idukki have been making oil from lemongrass for a long time.
Narayana said that if the steam distillation system is used, the extraction process will be more effective and the members of the unit will make more money, which will improve their quality of life. Haritha Lemon Grass Oil Unit, a Self-Help Group (SHG) was set up to run the unit, and the RGCB’s project team helped the group by setting up a work shed and giving them modern equipment.
App Gau Mithra
At a ceremony at the Paramoola Kurichya tribal family in Peechamkode, Narayana also gave out the ‘Gau Mithra’ app, which was made by the RGCB’s Tribal Heritage Project team. It tells about diseases in cattle and how they were treated in the past.
The app has information about up to 16 diseases that cattle often get and how to treat them in the old ways. The tribal communities in Idukki and Wayanad districts gave the tribal communities of Idukki and Wayanad districts a lot of information about diseases and treatments for livestock that was passed down orally. This information was then put into the ethnoveterinary app. Farmers who raise milk can get the app from the Play store. Both Malayalam and English versions of the content are available.
A business plan that works
RGCB is a department of the Department of Biotechnology that works on its own and is based in Thiruvananthapuram. The RGCB’s project will help 40 tribal families directly, and the unit is expected to become a successful business model for other community businesses.
Harithasree ST Kootayima, a paddy processing unit in Peechamkode, will help protect the rich genetic diversity of Wayanad’s traditional paddy varieties. The RGCB helps them grow traditional varieties of rice on about seven hectares of land and create a gene bank with 19 traditional varieties. The project team gives traditional paddy seeds, a common facility centre, and paddy processing machines with rubber-bushed hullers.