ICAR-IIHR Bengaluru has been playing a very proactive role in empowering the tribal population of the country through various horticultural technologies. ICAR-IIHR recently conducted a training program for the Soliga tribe women of BR Hills, in Chamrajnagar District of Karnataka on 17th and 18th Sept 2018. BR Hills is located in south-eastern Karnataka is at the confluence of the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats and is a protected reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and also declared a Tiger Reserve in December 2010. This region has been the home for the Soliga Tribe for hundreds of years. Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK) has been in BR Hills for the past thirty years striving for the integrated development of the Soligas. The mushroom training was specifically designed to address the mitigation of malnutrition among the tribal population in general and women in particular and to generate additional income. Dr. Meera Pandey, Principal Scientist, Mushroom lab and Dr. G. Senthil Kumaran, Principal Scientist, Div. of PHT & AE conducted the training in collaboration with the NGO Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK). The training was attended by 20 specifically selected women who will undertake mushroom based activities. The women were trained in the basic cultivation technology of oyster mushroom and methods to utilize the mushrooms both in fresh and dry forms to increase the nutrition in their daily diet. A demonstration was conducted to make mushroom value added products for daily usage like mushroom chutney powder in combination with groundnut, coconut, flax seeds, sesame seeds, moringa leaf and brahmi leaves. They were also showed how to make mushroom fortified rasam powder. Dr. G. Senthil Kumaran conducted training on building low cost structures using local materials so that mushroom cultivation could be made into a sustainable activity. A meeting was conducted with the members of the NGO to draw the roadmap for making mushroom production a consistent and sustainable activity. It was decided to plan the way forward as follows.
- Every woman of the Mushroom SHG group will be given 10 Ready to fruit (RTF) bagsevery month. ICAR-IIHR will provide the bags (20x10= 200) every month.
- The women will maintain complete data of the mushrooms harvested, consumed, sold and problems if any.
- After 6 months of this activity, a meeting will be conducted with the group, ICAR-IIHR Scientists and officials of the NGO to know the experience of the women.
- Based on their experience, ICAR-IIHR will establish a Ready to Fruit (RTF) bag production unit in the premises of the NGO. ICAR-IIHR will help in terms of providing ICAR-IIHR designed autoclave with boiler and a chaff cutter. The NGO has agreed to house the unit in an old building which will be refurnished by them.
- The trained women will carry out the RTF bag production under the guidance of ICAR-IIHR for 1 year after which the unit can be handed over to the women for independent production.