The State Medicinal Plants Board (SMPB) has drawn up plans to promote the cultivation of gooseberry among farmers and households as a commercial crop. It is also embarking on a venture for the manufacture and sale of a range of value-added products from amla. Board Chief Executive Officer K.G. Sreekumar said the project was being implemented under the National Amla Mission.
As many as 2.24 lakh saplings of amla had been distributed to households across the State over the last two years. The National Medicinal Plants Board had sanctioned an assistance of Rs.1 crore for the programme.
“As part of the primary healthcare tradition in Kerala, gooseberry is a major ingredient in many Ayurvedic preparations, because of its significant health benefits like boosting immunity. But many Ayurvedic manufacturers are today finding it difficult to meet the demand of this raw material. We are trying to promote the cultivation of amla at one level and introduce a buy-back arrangement with farmers to ensure that they get decent remuneration. Our efforts have started showing results. Amla is already fetching a good price in the market,” Mr. Sreekumar said.
SMPB had launched a programme in association with the public sector Oushadhi to popularise seven types of amla juice for various health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue, and stomach disorders. Named Seven Sisters, the concoctions are made by mixing amla juice with other ingredients like rock salt, turmeric powder, carrot, beetroot, cucumber, honey, mint, and candy sugar.
The board had set up three fresh juice kiosks on the Secretariat premises here; Oushadhi Hospital canteen, Thrissur; and the District Collectorate, Thrissur. “All the three kiosks have been getting a good response from the public. We have plans to establish a State-wide network of kiosks in association with non-governmental organisations. The board will equip the operators with juicers and provide training in preparing the different types of juices,” Mr. Sreekumar said. Oushadhi, in association with SMPB, had developed a range of value-added products like sweets, juice, and pickles with gooseberry as the primary ingredient. It is trying for a patent on the products.
Farming in prison
The SMPB had joined hands with the Prisons Department to take up the conservation and cultivation of rare, endangered, and threatened species of medicinal plants at the Viyyur Central Jail. Supported by NMPB, the Rs.28-lakh project seeks to create a steady source of quality raw material for the Ayurvedic medicine industry.
As many as six commercially valuable species will be cultivated in the first phase of the project, with nine more species to be taken up for farming later. The project will utilise the arable land on the jail campus. “We have worked out a buy-back arrangement with Oushadhi for the farm produce,” Mr. Sreekumar said.
“For the first time, SMPB has been given an allocation of Rs.50 lakh in the current budget. The amount will be used for creating an inventory of medicinal plants, conserving the plants and their natural habitat including sacred groves, and creating public awareness about their importance.”
The board is preparing to implement the school herbal garden scheme in 300 schools covering eight districts this year. “The project will be implemented in five districts, Thiruvananthapuram, Idukki, Thrissur, Palakkad, and Malappuram, where conditions are more favourable for the cultivation of the species. As many as 2,000 saplings of the two species will be distributed in each district,” Mr. Sreekumar said.