express news service
Villupuram: They were deprived of proper education. Most of these 20 women from the neighboring villages of Villupuram – Nadukuppam, Vandipalayam and Devikulam – have not completed primary education but can name more than 1,000 herbs and list their uses. They are now self-sufficient, and contribute significantly to their family income.
Turning Point was a project organized at Pichandikulam Forest in Auroville to train rural women. In six months, these women were taught farming, manufacturing, marketing, accounting, skill development, entrepreneurship and team building, after which, they launched the Amrita Herbal Unit and Nursery.
Near the forests of Nadukuppam village in Markanam, this facility serves as their workplace, where they cultivate herbs, and make and market medicines, cosmetics, and foods. They sell 35 products including soaps, hair oils, powders for the face, teeth and body, and medicines in the form of oils, pastes and electuaries.
“Despite many requests, we do not export the products as our resources are limited,” says Parvati Nagarajan, who trains women. “He came here as a housewife, but now knows as much about herbs as a Siddha doctor.”
Sharing her side of the story, B Kalaiselvi, a woman from the unit in Nadukuppam says, “I dropped out of school in class 8 as I had to start working in the fields. I continued even after marriage. But 10 years ago, I came here for training, and have been earning a better income since then.”
Even her trainer Parvati was pressured to leave the school. “My parents did not want me to continue after class 5, but I was able to complete my schooling. My ancestors were native doctors, and my grandmother taught me about herbs and their uses. Until I was offered the role of a herbal trainer in the jungles of Pichandikulam, I did a few odd jobs.” Through sessions at primary health centers (PHCs), anganwadis and women’s self-help groups, Parvati has trained around 30,000 people, she says.
Another woman from the unit, D Kavitha of Devikulam, says, “We left Tamil Nadu for the first time, when we went to the national capital to sell our products at an exhibition organized by the central government. We have clients all over Tamil Nadu and even from Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad to whom we courier the products. We also have a stall in Pudhumai complex near Villupuram collector’s office.
Team members say that starting Amrita Herbal Unit and Nursery has changed their lives a lot, which has helped them to provide financial support to their families. They also use the herb as a home remedy for minor health problems. Some of the herbs are grown in the field, the rest from the nearby forest or roadside, says B Nageswari, a member of the team, adding that she encourages other villagers to grow herbs as well. To train women, Kaluveli Sustainable Livelihood Women Federation (KSLWF) was formed and a herbal farm was established at Nadukuppam with the help of Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihood Mission and Sustainable Enterprise Development in Auroville Bioregion (SEDAB).
His new venture to provide livelihood
Team members say that starting Amrita Herbal Unit and Nursery has changed their lives a lot, which has helped them to provide financial support to their families. To train women, Kaluveli Sustainable Livelihood Women Federation (KSLWF) was formed and a herbal farm was established at Nadukuppam with the help of Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihood Mission and Sustainable Enterprise Development in Auroville Bioregion (SEDAB).