Women turn to jam to help save Manas forest- Families on park’s fringe make jelly from garden fruits to lessen dependence on trees
Guwahati, Sept. 6: Womenliving on the fringe of Manas National Park are making jams and jellies from home-grown fruits and vegetables to win the dual battle over poverty and deforestation.
The enterprise, that began with encouragement from an NGO, Aaranyak, is successfully weaning people from chopping valuable trees in the national park as a means of sustenance.
Women are Aaranyak’s target group, who are growing fruits and vegetables in their backyard and then being trained to process and preserve them as jams, jellies and pickles.
“Poverty compels these people to bank heavily on forest resources found in Manas National Park for their livelihood, which is detrimental to conservation initiatives,” said Namita Brahma, a conservation leader with Aaranyak who began the initiative to make the women self-reliant.
The NGO trained 136 women from 28 fringe villages in food processing and preservation in two phases, with help from the Bodoland Territorial Council and Manas Ever Welfare Society, a local NGO from Bansbari.
The first phase of the training was organised in Bhuyanpara area of Manas National Park from September 6-10 last year.
The next phase of training was organised at Bansbari range of the park from August 27-30 this year.
“The results have already started showing. One of the most significant outcomes of the initiative is that of the 80 women trained in 2009, 22 women from five villages have formed a self-help group — Maidangshree — and have begun producing a variety of processed food products like jam, jelly and pickle. With an initial investment of Rs 6,000, they have earned Rs 14,000 in three months, with a net profit of Rs 8,000,” Brahma said.
The women are only too happy.
One of the active members of this successful group Krishna Basumatary said: “We are very lucky and happy to receive the food processing and preservation training. This has helped us to become independent and showed us a new means for earning our livelihood,” said Krishna Basumatary.
Papaya jelly, banana jelly, jelly made from jack fruit skin, grape fruit juice, brinjal pickle,ou tenga pickle and bel squash are some of Maidangshree’s products.
“The plan is to get them a good marketing channel so that they can get a bigger market,” Brahma said.