The Thiruvanthapuram-headquartered Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) has launched a major project to support the traditional enterprises of tribal communities in Kerala's Wayanad district.
This enterprise comes as part of the Centre's Science Heritage Research Initiative (SHRI) to preserve the country's rich tribal heritage and ethnic knowledge.
According to 2011 Census, the Scheduled Tribe population in Kerala is 4,84,839 (1.5 per cent of the total population) and Wayanad has the highest number of tribals (1,51,443) in Kerala.
The prime objective of this project is to protect the rich tribal heritage through various scientific interventions with the participation of tribal communities.
As part of the participatory approach, tribal self-help groups were formed in identified locations of Wayanad district, where the resources were available and the communities were interested in revamping their tradition and heritage.
Taking the project forward, RGCB director Prof. Chandrabhas Narayana inaugurated a lemongrass oil extraction unit at Valad in Thavinjal panchayat and a paddy processing unit at Peechamkode in Vellamunda panchayat.
At a function held at the Paramoola Kurichya tribal family at Peechamkode, he also released the Gau Mithra App for cattle diseases and their traditional cures. This is developed by RGCB's Tribal Heritage Project team.
"RGCB, with the financial support of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, is making an attempt to preserve this diminishing tradition under SHRI programme,"said Narayana.
Lemongrass oil extraction has been a long-standing enterprise among the tribal communities of Kerala who reside near the grasslands of Wayanad and Idukki.
Narayana said that by introducing steam distillation system, the process of extraction becomes more effective, and the unit members will get better economic returns and improve their quality of life.
RGCB's initiative will directly benefit 40 tribal families, and the unit is expected to become a successful business model for community enterprises.
The paddy processing unit, Harithasree ST Kootayima at Peechamkode will help protect the rich genetic wealth of traditional paddy varieties of Wayanad. RGCB extends support for cultivation of traditional paddy varieties around 7 hectares of land and create a gene bank of 19 traditional varieties.
The Gau Mithra app carries information about as many as 16 illnesses cattle are prone to and the traditional cures for them. The ethno-veterinary app encapsulates a wide range of orally transmitted ethnic knowledge and practices relating to livestock diseases and cures, gathered from the tribal communities of Idukki and Wayanad. The contents are available in both Malayalam and English and dairy farmers can download the app from Play Store.