These Odisha tribal women earn big with mahua ladoos

Around 120 tribal women in Kandhamal prepare;laddus, cakes, jam, toffees, pickles, squash,;pakodas;and biscuits using dry mahua flowers;
The women started preparing these items after attending a training held at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra. Photo: Hrusikesh Mohanty.
The women started preparing these items after attending a training held at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra. Photo: Hrusikesh Mohanty.

Mahua flowers, mainly used for brewing a local liquor, are popular across India. But for tribal women in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, they are a source of livelihood. They use mahua flowers to prepare various delicious varieties of food.

Around 120 tribal women members of the state’s Van Dhan Vikas Kendras prepare laddus, cakes, jam, toffees, pickles, squash, pakodas and biscuits using dry mahua flowers and supply them in the local market. Mahua laddus are in high demand compared to other products, said Shantilata Kanhar of Jamjhari village.

“The laddu is prepared using ingredients such as cashew, rasi, groundnut, jaggery, and mahua flowers — the major ingredient,” said Mamata Majhi of Taladandakia village.

The women started preparing these items after attending a training held at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Nandurbar, Maharashtra, in February 2023. The training was facilitated by the district administration.

Most tribal women in the district are engaged in collecting mahua flowers from jungles between February and April every year. As the Odisha Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation Limited, a state government-owned organisation did not procure the flowers, mahua collectors here were forced to make distress sales. They had to sell the flowers to the middlemen and the local traders, who supply to liquor manufacturers, according to tribal leaders.

Local traders who buy the flowers from the tribal women at Rs 20-25 per kg sell them to the liquor manufacturers at Rs 50-Rs 60, they said.

“These women get a chance to make good profit by preparing value-added products out of the flowers,” said Ashish Ishwar Patil, district collector, Kandhamal.

They went to Maharashtra to gain knowledge on how to prepare different products out of the flowers, and now they are preparing themselves and training others, he said

The women will get gainful employment by preparing the value-added dishes, said the collector. We aim to equip almost all tribal women in the district to prepare value-added products.

P Murali Mohan, project manager of Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Phulbani, said the district administration has decided to market their products across the country through different agencies. The administration has also started a discussion on supplying mahua laddu to the Anganwadi centres in the district.

Fakir Mohan Sahu, assistant professor at Navsari Agricultural University, Gujarat, conducted a study on the plant and found the flower contains 40-50 per cent of sugar and 5.62 per cent of proteins; it is also rich in fibres, calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin C.

The tribals from states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and Maharashtra have prepared several value-added products from mahua flowers and seeds. Annual average production of mahua flowers in the country is around 45,000 tonnes, he said

“It’s a welcome step that Kandhamal, a predominantly tribal district in Odisha has taken this iniotiative,” he said. Mahua flower collection is an important source of employment for the poor tribal people in Odisha. It alone provides 25-30 days of employment per year, he said. 

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