Forest and Wildlife Department in Kerala sell forest produce via WhatsApp groups and home delivery

Wild honey, cambogia (kudampuli), wild turmeric, black dammer (kunthirikkam) and wild pepper, a number of the forest produce sourced by tribal communities in Kerala, are a lot in demand for his or her purity and flavours. However, when Vanasree eco retailers below the Forest and Wildlife division, which sell these forest merchandise, needed to down shutters on account of COVID-19-induced lockdown, lots of the retailers had tonnes of unsold shares.

That’s when the eco retailers launched a scheme to home-deliver these merchandise by utilizing social media platforms and WhatsApp groups. For occasion, an outlet at Kodanad close to Malayattoor in Ernakulam district had practically 10 tonnes of untamed honey and one tonne of kudampuli, sourced from 12 tribal settlements below the Malayattoor forest division, in inventory when the lockdown got here into pressure. The authorities took the choice to ship the produce to shoppers inside a 60-kilometre radius of the eco store.

“We have additionally reopened our cellular unit promoting honey, wild turmeric (kasturi manjal), kunthirikkam, natural scrub (incha), kallurvanchi (a medicinal shrub) and wild pepper. The unit strikes in and round Ernakulam district. Plans are afoot to provide honey in bulk portions to residents’ associations,” says an official with the division.

While Vazhachal division with 1,800 kg of untamed honey offered a considerable quantity to residential associations in Kochi, Chalakkudy division with 7,000 kg of honey turned to WhatsApp to search out consumers.

Honey for sale at Vanasree eco shop at Chalakkudy

“Procured from five of the 12 tribal colonies under the division, the entire honey was bought by the department from the tribespeople as they were unable to find any local buyers. A WhatsApp message about the stock got noticed and 1,000 kg was collected by Horticorp [Kerala State Horticultural Products Development Corporation]. Another 100 kg was bought by a private firm,” says Praseetha EP of Vanasree eco store at Chalakkudy in Thrissur district. The outlet additionally procures beeswax from the tribals that goes into making completely different sorts of balm, cleaning soap and moisturiser. “We have trained a few women from one of the tribal colonies to make these products,” she provides.

At the doorsteps

Eco retailers in Konni (Pathanamthitta) and Thiruvananthapuram have additionally been doing home delivery. In Konni, home delivery is for any buy value ₹1,000, whereas Thiruvananthapuram division had home delivery service inside the metropolis limits till it reopened its cellular unit and eco store. “It was only during the initial days of the lockdown that we couldn’t collect tribal produce. After that, there has been no delay,” says Santosh Kumar G, beat forest officer, Thiruvananthapuram division.

Maniyan, a member of Kani tribe, with the produce for sale at the ‘Kani chantha’ at Kottur

Maniyan, a member of Kani tribe, with the produce on the market on the ‘Kani chantha’ at Kottur  
| Photo Credit:
Special arrangement

Under Vanika, a brand new initiative launched in Thiruvananthapuram, agricultural produce collected from the tribal communities have been offered by means of a WhatsApp group. Products from 21 tribal settlements have been collected by the forest officers. “Now ‘Kani chantha’ on Wednesdays and Saturdays are held on our office premises to auction the forest produce at reasonable rates,” says an officer with Kottur part of Agasthyavanam Biological Park.

Collective effort

  • Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department has 427 Vana Samrakshana Samithi (VSS), 99 Adivasi Vana Samrakshana Samithis (AVSS) and 213 Eco Development Committees (EDCs) to handle procurement and advertising of forest assets in coordination with respective Forest Development Agencies (FDA). There are 35 Vanasree eco retailers and two cellular items [at Malayattoor and Thiruvananthapuram] below the division.

Although not all forest divisions have been in a position to clear their shares, they assist the tribals by procuring the produce collected by them. “There are 99 tribal settlements of which 30 are into harvesting honey. That is their livelihood and it is our responsibility to support them. So we continue to collect honey even though we haven’t chalked out a plan to sell it. We are in talks with certain Ayurveda pharmacies,” says Aswathy VK, sociologist, Sultan Bathery Forest Development Agency, Wayanad Wildlife Division.

The division collected 15,000 kg of honey in the 2019-2020 monetary yr. “We have been giving training to small groups to make value-added products from honey. But that had to be stopped because of the pandemic,” she says.

Recently, Horticorp and the Agro-Industries Corporation launched ‘Achenkovil Honey’ to sell honey collected from forests in the Achencoil area in Kollam district. Meanwhile, the Forest Department is streamlining on-line gross sales of Vanasree merchandise, which was launched final yr.

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