Africa-Press – Cape verde. This February, more than 100 farmers in the heartland of tribal India, besides the birthplace of the Narmada river in the Anuppur district of Madhya Pradesh, will harvest lemongrass, a non-indigenous sedge, in their maiden attempt towards realizing the socio-economic potential in the global map.
“Anuppur is on the brink of socio-economic revolution,” says Shriprakash Mani Tripathi, the Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU) at Amarkantak, spearheading the revolution in the region.
The rocky terrain of Amarkantak in the Anuppur district of Madhya Pradesh has been throbbing with energy, not just from the vibration of the mighty river but that of its natives, who have taken upon themselves to put the region known hitherto predominantly for the river, on the global economic map.
Anuppur district, mostly hilly and forested, is spread over roughly 1500 sq miles, about the size of Africa’s Cape Verde. Although rich in natural resources, the district somehow could not harness its true potential until the beginning of this decade. Today, however, the tribal region is abuzz with activities – horticulture, bakery, forestry, handicrafts – that have been remodelling the district towards nation-building. “Nation building would be incomplete if traditional grassroots knowledge and the people associated with that voluminous knowledge are not made part of the process. Merging that knowledge with modern innovative practices and technology would complete the process,” says Vice Chancellor Tripathi.
While the university is preparing its students for leadership roles in a multicultural world, as its Vice Chancellor, Prof Tripathi, is the torchbearer of the mission to usher in sustainable socio-economic growth while preserving and enriching the cultural heritage and tradition of the region.
“I do not see myself as a mere administrator of a university. My fellow professors and I are shouldering the responsibility of nation-building by moulding these students and locals as pillars of socio-economic growth,” says Prof Tripathi, who aspires to make the region, touted as one of the most backward regions of India, a thriving economic centre of growth and knowledge.
In his endeavour to overhaul the socio-economic condition of the district, Prof Tripathi directed agriculturists, botanists, and horticulturists from the university to understand, document, and research the aromatic and medicinal plants grown in the wild.
While the region is rich in herbs like Safed Musli, Kalmegh, Gudmar, and Gulbakawali and is known to Baiga, Gond, Kukna, Kolam, Varli, Bhil, and other tribal communities, the team revealed that the district could become a potential hotbed for commercial cultivation of lemongrass, a sedge that brings high remuneration owing to its medicinal, aromatic and therapeutic values.
After ascertaining the prospects of commercial cultivation of lemongrass, Prof Tripathi invited the Lucknow-based Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) to stitch a tripartite agreement with the university and the Anuppur district administration.
The MoU signed in mid-2022 aims to promote the cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants in the region by imparting training to tribal farmers. “In the first phase, over 500 farmers have been brought under lemon grass cultivation, which has great demand in the country. This has strengthened their economic condition and opened them up for new learnings. While the first phase will have lemongrass across 200 acres, its success will pave the way for future projects,” he says. Prof Tripathi is a man of the soil, talking at length about various crop species that he believes have the potential to bring commercial success to the region. “We have substantial cultivation of Kodo millet that is extremely beneficial for those with diabetes. The crop fetches Rs 200 a kilo in the Indian market. We are attempting to brand it and market it so that locals are encouraged to bring an increasing area under cultivation. Likewise, Amarkantak is renowned for its honey. We have been enabling farmers with bee farming and honey processing so that their remunerations improve manifold,” he says.
Today, the IGNTU promotes a Herbal Garden too. “To market the local herbs commercially, we are cultivating 57 medicinal and aromatic plants in the herbal garden so that tribals are encouraged to cultivate them. We do not want traditional wisdom and indigenous flora-fauna species to succumb to market pressures and hence, it is important that they continue to thrive with some hand-holding of best marketing practices,” says the academician who has become an agent of socio-economic revolution for the locals.
As for those who are unemployed, the livelihood business incubation centre of the IGNTU imparts training on the manufacturing of soya milk, paneer, and other bakery products, apart from holding sessions on the processing and packaging of honey, cornflakes, and mushrooms readily available in the vicinity.
Having penned 30 books to date, the academician who is known to document his experiences is currently scripting the facelift journey of India’s heartland.
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