Grow back wisdom
Farmers in Raipur division, Dehradun, have been reaping unprecedented profits from their rocky, infertile lands. But it took Vaidya Balendu Prakash, eminent ayurvedic physician and director of the Vaidya Chandra Prakash Cancer Research Foundation, quite a bit of convincing before they agreed to cultivate medicinal plants in place of their regular crops. He says, "This area used to be full of medicinal plants 30 years ago. Mindless exploitation wiped them out."
Prakash wished to involve local farmers in the cultivation of medicinal plants. Farmers were provided with the necessary material for planting, and were told about the relative advantages of cultivating medicinal plants. Eleven farmers agreed to grow konch (Mucuna pruriens) on their land.
Vimla Devi's family planted konch on 0.2 ha (one bigha) of their land. She says, "We would get about Rs 160 from the sale of rice, wheat and pulses from this plot. This year, we earned about Rs 1,000." Prakash now plans to move on to production of chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), which could fetch the farmers up to Rs 13,000 per bigha of land. Prakash also ensured that the herb finds an assured market. Forest officials were informed about what plant was grown, and what the expected yield is, so they do not mistake it for illegal procurement from forest areas.
Cultivation protocols for these and 20-odd other plants are underway. However, the greatest hurdle they are up against is the non-availability of material for planting. It is not possible for traders to supply them with seeds and bulbs used for planting, as these need to be treated differently. Prakash believes the ministry of agriculture should help farmers with procurement of planting materials.
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