Rekindling hopes of gum-pickers

By TheHindu on 29 Nov 2016

Growth path: Representatives of an NGO at a gum karaya nursery at Bangarammapeta in Anantagiri mandal in Visakhapatnam district. —

Santosh Patnaik

Their income level is on the rise, thanks to training in scientific tapping methods

They are also given training in raising nurseries

Training in new techniques prevents damage to gum karaya trees

ARAKU VALLEY: It can be aptly called making big wonders with simple technologies.

The regeneration of gum karaya (sterculia urens roxb) trees and training in scientific methods of tapping gum has rekindled the hopes of 10,000 girijans in the State.

Value chain

Thanks to recent interventions, tribals are now feeling secured as their income from collecting gum karaya – an important non-timber forest product – is on steady rise. The initiative taken by the Kovel Foundation, an NGO, the Girijan Cooperative Corporation and the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation for regeneration of gum karaya has also attracted experts from Senegal – the world’s largest gum karaya producer after India.

Tribals are being trained on value chain management and best management practices on scientific tapping, thereby raising their income. “Before the intervention, we didn’t know how to tap gum. We used to cut the trees with axe and sickle to extract gum. Now, our collection has gone up due to scientific methods taught to us,” says Korra Malamma, president, Bangaramma Talli Self-Help Group.

Tamarlaa Lakshmi, another tribal gum-picker from Bangarammapeta in Anantagiri mandal in the district, is also very happy with the training given to them on how to raise nurseries on their land. After a gestation of 10 years, with almost zero maintenance, she will start collecting gum from 50 trees planted by her in her land for lifelong.

While the gum-picker gets Rs.150 or so per kg, the GCC sells it after grading and processing at Rs.250 to Rs.300. The end user buys it at Rs.1,000. It is in high demand in export market for pharmaceutical, laxative food, textile industry and confectionaries.

Per cutting, the gum-pickers get 30 to 50 grams, which ranges up to 10 to 12 times a month. Grading is done after processing.

NGO initiative

The Kovel Foundation has developed nurseries at Bangarammapalem, Tallapalem near RC Puram (East Godavari) and Ummadivaram near Bhadrachalam (Khammam) after training 7,000 gum-pickers on scientific tapping. It planted 42,000 saplings last year and an equal number this year. Bangarammapalem nursery has already planted 12,500 and waiting for arrival of seed from the GCC to plant more.

The Integrated Tribal Development Agencies in Visakhapatnam, East Godavari and Khammam are supporting the regeneration programme. The training on new techniques of tapping gum is preventing damage to gum karaya trees, thereby avoiding their untimely death.

“The regeneration programme is a goldmine in the making. With each tribal family owning 30 trees, they are assured of an income of Rs.1,000 a month after the gestation period,” says V. Krishna Rao, CEO, Kovel Foundation.