Category Archives: Agriculture

How Kerala’s first community radio station is creating waves of change

Broadcasting programmes in different tribal dialects, this radio channel is disseminating important information to the marginalised groups of Wayanad.

Nammada Mattoli (our Mattoli) is what listeners across Kerala fondly call this radio station. Operating from a shopping complex space in the quaint municipality of Mananthavady, Radio ‘Mattoli’ (meaning echo/reverberation in local dialects) broadcasts socially-relevant programmes that are cheered by a wide range of audiences across the Wayanad hills.

Home to many farmers and indigenous tribal groups, Wayanad is among the most sparsely populated, backward districts of Kerala (according to the 2011 Census). Though it scores well in sex ratio, Wayanad still has the lowest literacy rate in entire Kerala.

Promoted by Wayanad Social Service Society (WSSS), a non-governmental development organisation, ‘Radio Mattoli 90.4 FM’ started its operation in 2009 to bridge the information gap that existed between agriculture-dependent communities and government authorities. Tracing back its origin and purpose, Father Sebastian Puthen Varghese, the current Station Director says,

A lot of people in the tribal communities were not getting relevant governmental information in an easily accessible manner. Radio Mattoli began with an aim to reach out to such marginalised communities.

 Acquainting farmers

Brainchild of Bishop Mar Jose Porunnedom, Radio Mattoli today broadcasts 20 hours of various programmes and documentaries with its signals covering more than 85 percent of Wayanad district.

Wayanad’s District Police Superintendent Arul RB Krishna speaking to the listeners of Radio Mattoli.

With farmers and agriculturalists occupying the majority of the population in Wayanad, many of Radio Mattoli’s programmes are geared towards addressing their needs and concerns.

For example, programmes such as NjattuvelaVayalnadu and Kambolanilavaram spread pertinent agricultural knowledge on market value of products, weather updates, bio-farming techniques, etc. shares Fr. Sebastian.

The channel also gets on board relevant experts from government authorities who acquaint farmers in the Wayanad hills with the methods to preserve of water bodies, dairy farming, organic farming, and precision farming.

Quoting an anecdote from his previous work experience as documentation and communication officer at Radio Mattoli, Krishnakumar CK recalls an incident when “there was a high incidence of foot-and-mouth disease among the cattle in the Wayanad region in 2013.” Despite repeated requests, veterinary doctors from the government were hesitant to reach out and help farmers in remote areas who had lost their cattle.

To address this negligence on part of authorities, Radio Mattoli toured these places, recorded the woes of 10 dairy farmers and their families who had lost their cattle, and escalated the issue by broadcasting a timely, special programme. Such an effort immediately promoted government authorities, who swung to immediate action and sent out an ambulance for help.

Empowering tribal communities

Wayanad, a well-known bio-diversity hotspot, is also home to 13 of Kerala’s 36 tribal communities. As Krishnakumar explains,

The social isolation levels in many of these tribal communities is very high and they often hesitate to integrate with the people in the mainstream.

However, thanks to Radio Mattoli’s programmes such as Thudichetham which broadcast the complexities of the issues faced by tribals and suggest remedies in their own dialects and slang, the tribal communities of Wayanad now possess a very strong and personal sense of ownership with regard to the channel.

The tribal producers of Radio Mattoli

Fr. Sebastian is both proud and emotional when he recollects how Radio Mattoli and its community-driven content has impacted many people. “We have heard from Joseph, an illiterate who quit habitual smoking after listening to one of our programmes that spoke about the ill-effects of the same. Now, he frequently visits our station office with sweets and poems written by him”.

In one of our radio club meetups, Bhasakaran, who belongs to the backward classes, also shared how he carried his radio set with him even when he climbed trees to pluck peppercorns. That’s the kind of affection people have shown for Radio Mattoli, he adds.

Radio Mattoli is the only electronic media channel in the whole of Kerala to broadcast programmes in tribal languages. The station has a team of active volunteers from tribal communities who first train and then produce creative content (in the form of scripting shows, lending their voice for radio dramas, etc.) on their own.

Many tribal dialects in Kerala do not even have a script. In this context, the effort of these young volunteers striving to help their communities is extremely crucial, opines Krishnakumar.

Bringing the issues of marginalised communities to mainstream

Apart from farmers and tribal communities, Radio Mattoli also produces content for women, children and people from marginalised communities such as the elderly, orphans, etc. While programmes such as Vanitha Mattoli and Karuthal throw light on a wide range of women and children related issues, more targeted broadcasts are also designed to benefit groups as specific as the auto rickshaw drivers in the region.

Talking about programmes such as Ponpulari, which feature the entrepreneurial efforts of women in Wayanad region, Fr. Sebastian says,

Radio Mattoli has identified and interviewed several women who are running small businesses (such as that of pickle and Namkeen) of value added products.

Airwaves of change

Licensed by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Radio Mattoli is also the only community radio channel functioning out of the Wayanad region. In span of eight years, the channel has expanded from broadcasting just four hours initially to 20 hours (12 hours of fresh content and eight of previous broadcasts) today, from 5:30am to 1:30am.

Though revenue generation was an initial hurdle, Radio Mattoli now gets financial assistance from various government departments, organisations, and also benefits from regularised advertisements.

Radio Mattoli, through its 60 exclusive programmes, has been able to reach out to a varied group of listeners in Wayanad such as farmers, tribes, dalits, women, and children.

“Over the years, a team of dedicated volunteers from grassroots communities have helped Radio Mattoli gain the kind popularity that it has. We are proud of this active citizenry since it marks the triumph of any community radio station”, says Fr. Sebastian.

When questioned about future plans for Radio Mattoli, he adds,

Our biggest dream in the coming years is to broadcast the voice of every citizen in Wayanad. And eventually, we want this radio station to be owned by people themselves.

“Radio Mattoli provides a lot of autonomy at work. Since, there’s no pressure to do news, we have the bandwidth to plan and proceed with our special programmes,” says 28-year-old Lithin   who works with the station.

India has about 179 community radio stations, a number that’s too small compared to the proposed 4,000 by Government of India in 2007. However, among the ones disseminating information in the remotest areas and empowering the masses, Radio Mattoli stands out as a shining example.

source: http://www.yourstory.com / YourStory.com / Home> Social Story / by Amoolya Rajappa / January 09th, 2018

Rasayana gets thumbs up from scientists

Paper vouches for cardioprotective properties of gooseberry-based Rasayana

Rasayana treatment, a specialised branch of Ayurveda, is traditionally associated with rejuvenation of vital body tissues and retardation of the ageing process. For thousands of years, Ayurveda physicians have used an array of herbal formulations to promote strength and increase resistance to toxic agents.

Now modern science has come up with experimental evidence for the beneficial effects of Rasayana and its mechanism of action. A team of scientists from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology and Sri Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, Manipal University, Vellore Institute of Technology and Kottakkal Arya Vaidyasala have published a paper corroborating the cardioprotective properties of Amalaki Rasayana, a traditional Ayurvedic formulation based on the Indian gooseberry.

Animal trials demonstrated that long-term intake of Amalaki Rasayana (AR) can ameliorate cardiac dysfunction associated with ageing and Pressure Overload Left Ventricular Hypertrophy, a condition that causes thickening of the cardiac muscle, leading to heart failure.

The scientists found that AR induces molecular-level changes that build up resistance to the toxic effects of free radicals and maximises the efficiency of heart muscle contraction, leading to better energy. The work has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Exercise tolerance

“We found that aged rats fed with AR had higher exercise tolerance,” says C.C. Kartha from RGCB, one of the co-authors of the paper. Fatigue time in treadmill exercise was found to be significantly higher in AR administered rats. AR was also found to increase the exercise tolerance and left ventricular function in hypertrophic rats.

Gene expression analysis proved that AR could trigger the expression of proteins to arrest age-related changes in cardiac muscles. The scientists reported the presence of anti-inflammatory metabolites in AR that contribute to improved cardiac function. “Though the therapeutic properties of gooseberry are well known, it came as a surprise to us that AR could induce such changes at the tissue, cellular and molecular levels,” Dr. Kartha said.

The team is currently working on scientific evaluation of the process of preparing AR as prescribed in ancient Ayurvedic texts. “For instance, there is a section that insists on distilling the gooseberry juice 21 times for maximum efficacy. The role of honey and ghee and their proportion in preparing the formulation have to be examined in detail,” says Dr.Kartha.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Karnataka / by T. Nandakumar / Thiruvananthapuram – December 22nd, 2017

Valliyamma becomes Kerala’s first woman to head RAF

She leads a 10-member team in Agali region to chase wild elephants away

Though she lacks any formal scientific training in herding back crop-raiding wild elephants to their forest environs, 38-year-old R. Valliyamma looks confident in her new role as the first woman in Kerala to head a unit of Forest Department’s Rapid Action Force to mitigate escalating human-animal conflicts.

“My selection to this post proves managing wild elephants is no more a male bastion. My growing up in forest fringe tribal village Vadakottathara in Attappady as member of a family with harmonious relationship with the wild animals has provided me enough capability to carry out this challenging job. I know elephants and their behavioural patterns since schildhood,” said Valliyamma in an interaction with The Hindu a day after taking charge as RAF unit head at Agali under Mannarkkad Forest Division.

She is now leading a 10-member team comprising two beat forest officers and five forest watchers in Agali region, where wild pachyderms from Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts of Tamil Nadu engage in regular crops raiding apart from posing threat to the lives of local community.

She is getting the new responsibility hardly four months after being promoted as a Section Forest Officer, the first woman in that post in Kerala. In the previous role, she had to manage a section of wild under Mannarkkad Forest Division. As far as Valliyamma is concerned, this is her 15th year with the Forest Department.

The Irula tribal woman had begun her service with Kerala government as a forest guard and her initial years were in fact a hard struggle to rein in sandalwood smugglers and ganja cultivators who roam the Attappady forests.

“I had been fighting hunters, ganja cultivators and sandalwood smugglers with the help of my colleagues in the department. There were instances in which we collectively seized sandalwood pieces weighing more than 35 kg,” she said.

Before becoming section forest officer, her designation was Beat Forest Officer.

“After failing pre-degree, I was working as an Anganwadi helper. My engagement with forest protection began after getting selected under a special recruitment drive by the Kerala Public Service Commission. But my family and friends were initially worried because the job was too risky,” said Valliyamma.

“My parents were nominal farmers and the land we inherited was barren. I married Sivan, a weaver. But he lost his job when the local weaving centre closed down. To make ends meet, I became an Anganwadi worker. The job exposed me to the world outside and I was determined to find a government job,” recalled the mother of two school-going children.

Apart from her official assignments, Valliyamma is also the secretary of the Adivasi Forest Protection Samithy at Melechavadiyoor. The tribal collective is engaged in social forestry apart from coordinating with the Forest Department to collect forest produce. “Fear never prevented me from going deep inside the forests for conservation-related matters. I prefer working outside than going through files in office,” she said.

She is the first person in her extended family to enter government service. “The new responsibility is reflection of the absolute faith my superiors have in me. I will live up to their expectations,” she said.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by K A Shaji / Allapady (Palakkad) / November 26th, 2017

Farmers find success in fighting bugs the organic way

Kozhikode :

Even as farmers following intensive farming are struggling to battle bugs which are increasingly turning pesticide-resistant, farmer groups who have adopted organic cultivation say they have been successful in keeping the pests at bay by adopting sustainable and integrated pest management strategies. Rajesh Krishnan, a biotechnologist turned organic farmer and winner of this year’s Youth Icon award instituted by state government, for instance, has not sprayed even a drop of pesticide in his ten-acre paddy field at Thrissilery in Wayanad in the past four years.

Still, he has been able to curb the deadly trio of major rice pests the leaf roller (Cnaphalocrocis medinalis), stem borer (Scirpophaga incertulas)and earhead bug (Leptocorisa acuta) using organic formulations and local traditional knowledge.

The farmer collectives say pest management is a built-in process in the overall crop production in traditional and organic farming process rather than a pest-killing activity using chemicals. “Pests have been evolving to overcome targeted chemical pesticides as part of their survival strategy . In organic farming, the focus is on management of pests instead of elimination of pests. We have been able to manage pests very well for paddy and other crops without using chemical pesticides,” he said.

Rajesh Krishnan said that the leaf roller can be controlled by a simple mechanical method of sweeping the rice plants with branches of `Parakam’ tree which has rough leaves.

“When we sweep the plants using the tree branches in the morning, the caterpillar will be dislodged from the leaves and falls into the water which will be drained out immediately,” he said.

For repelling the earhead bug (Chazhi), ‘fish amino’ made using sardines which are fermented in a jaggery solution and sprayed after diluting it with water. Farmers in the state who have taken up `zero budget natural farming’ advocated by Subash Palekar are also of the view that pest management is not a big issue.

“Under our farming practices, which uses only natural inputs, a healthy ecosystem makes the plants stronger and enhances their selfdefence against pest attacks,” said CA Gopalakrishnan, state secretary of Palekar Prakrithi Karshaka Samithi.

He said that farmers have been effectively using natural pesticides like Neemastram (a decoction made out of  cow urine, dung and neem leaf paste), Brahmastram (made out of fruits like custard apple, leaves of papaya, guava and pomegranate apart from neem leaves and cow urine) to manage various pests including borers, bugs and caterpillars.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kozhikode News / TNN / November 06th, 2017

It’s a story of rice to riches for Kerala farmer

Against the grain: Praseed Kumar with his children in his progressive farm at Sulthan Bathery.

When others moved to cash crops to cut losses, he brought Gujarat and Punjab varieties to Wayanad

India’s traditional rice diversity has brought riches to a farmer in northern Kerala .

Praseed Kumar from Thayyil at Sulthan Bathery went against the tide, when his peers in the loss-hit farming community in Wayanad switched to cash crops such as plantain and arecanut a few years ago.

The 43-year-old progressive farmer got a small packet of rice seeds from a friend in Gujarat, which stood out with its violet-coloured chaff. He decided to propagate this variety. Initially, it was on just one cent of land, but later, it was expanded to one hectare.

Mr. Kumar has been conserving the ‘Krishna Kamod’, a basmati rice variety from Gujarat known for its taste, colour and aroma on one hectare for the past seven years.

Last year, he harvested nearly 2,500 kg of this paddy and sold it as seeds to farmers at ₹ 200 a kg, rather than in the open market.

“While farmers procure the rare rice variety as seed, others buy it as a gift, or keep it in their pooja rooms and offer it to temples,” Mr. Kumar said.

Fights drought, pests

He spent ₹ 85,000 as costs and earned ₹ 5 lakh. The Agriculture Department, which finds the rice attractive, chipped in with ₹18,000 as incentive.

“It seems quite suitable for Kerala and its pest and drought resistance are plus points,” said M.K. Mariyumma, Agricultural Officer, Krishi Bhavan, Nenmeni. Many farmers coming under Krishi Bhavan are eager to cultivate it.

The farmer has become famous for growing 15 varieties of rice. These include Mahamaya, a hybrid with an average yield of 4.3 tonnes an acre, Ramli, a traditional Punjab rice, Navara and Rakthashali, with medicinal properties, Black Jasmine, a violet medicinal Assamese type, two basmati variants from Jammu and Kashmir, besides Valichoori and Adukkan, both indigenous varieties.

Mr. Kumar is looking at rented land now, to grow even more.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Kerala / by E.M. Manoj / Kalpetta – October 31st, 2017

Intensive farming in Kerala a European legacy, says historian

Back to the past: Veritta Paitrukangal, an exhibition on agricultural implements of yore, in Thrissur.

Exhibition on agricultural tools at Sahitya Akademi draws history lovers

Intensive and extensive cultivation was practised in Kerala by European colonialists, the fruit of which were reaped mainly by the middle class, Michael Tharakan, chairman of the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), has said.

He was addressing a three-day national seminar on ‘Social changes in Kerala: The last five centuries’, organised by the Kerala Historical Research Society (KHRS) at the Kerala Sahitya Akademi here. The seminar will conclude on Sunday.

The progress of education in modern Kerala could be traced back to this rise of the middle class, he argued.

Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) Director Joy Elaman delivered the keynote address.

Kerala Sahitya Akademi president Vysakhan inaugurated an exhibition titled ‘Uprooted Heritage’. KHRS president George Alex presided over the function. Joseph John Keethra, general secretary, KHRS, and C.R. Valsan, Chairman, Kerala State Textile Corporation, spoke.

At the technical session, historian M.R. Raghava Warrier said colonialism in Kerala was based on a slavish mentality in material life, knowledge life, and individual life. Colonialism uprooted occupation groups and controlled the resource base of the land, he added.

Samuel Nellimukal presented a paper on education and social progress in the 19th and early 20th century Kerala. T.R. Venugopalan moderated the session.

The seminar is organised in six sessions, and 15 papers will be presented by experts in relevant areas. At the valedictory session, Alexander Jacob, IPS, will deliver a lecture on ‘Keralam: Innele Innu’.

Veritta Paitrukangal (Uprooted Heritage), an exhibition of agricultural tools and implements organised in connection with the seminar fascinated history lovers.

The exhibition explores the possibility of attracting youth to Kerala’s history and culture, and thereby, attempts to open fresh avenues in research and studies. Indirectly, it looks forward to creating awareness among youth and the public about the State in the past five centuries.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States / October 21st, 2017

A fisher couple who defies conventions

Braving waves: The CMFRI will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and K.C. Rekha on Friday.

Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat, according to CMFRI

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) will felicitate K.V. Karthikeyan and his wife K.C. Rekha who have been venturing into the sea for fishing using gill nets and hooks since the past 13 years.

Sudarshan Bhagat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, will present a memento to the couple at a fishermen meet to be held at CMFRI here on Friday. He will hand over fish seeds to the couple for launching sea cage farming. The programme is part of the ongoing platinum jubilee celebrations of the institution.

An official release here said that the couple hails from Kundazhiyoor near Chettuva in Thrissur district. It claimed that Ms. Rekha is the first woman in the country who goes fishing in the sea by boat. Although there are women engaged in fishing in backwaters, no record about women’s presence in fishing along the Indian coasts is available so far, said A. Gopalakrishnan, Director of CMFRI. He said that the institution wanted to felicitate the courage shown by the couple.

Financial support

“There are some superstitious beliefs in the society that women are not supposed to go to the sea for fishing. But, here a lady has courageously broken all these unreasonable customs and conventions and made a living out of fishing,” said Mr. Gopalakrishnan. The CMFRI has offered them financial and technical support to launch cage farming in the sea.

The Minister will address the representatives of fishermen and fish farmers. An interactive session will also be held on the occasion to solve the issues being faced by stakeholders.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by  Special Correspondent / Kochi – May 04th, 2017

Nilambur teak set to enter elite club of products with GI tag

prized wood: The superior quality of the Nilambur teak was identified by the British. — Photos: Special Arrangement

The timber has superior mechanical and physical properties, besides an incomparable aesthetic appearance

Nilambur teak, internationally known for its superior quality and elegant appearance, will soon be added to the list of Kerala produces with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.

The effort to obtain the GI status for this unique timber variety, pioneered by the IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) Cell of the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) with the support of the Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) and the Department of Forests, is set to bear fruit within a month.

It was the Britishers who identified the superior quality of teak from Nilambur plantations and forests. Later, the region became the major supplier of quality teak in the world.

Global appeal

As its fame crossed the seven seas, Nilambur was christened the Mecca of Teak. Tonnes of timber, blessed with superior mechanical and physical properties as well as incomparable aesthetic appearance, were taken to London and other parts of the world. The Nilambur-Shoranur Railway line was laid for transporting the teak logs.

However, fake products with false tags started flooding the wood/ furniture markets as the fame of Nilambur teak increased. Understanding the potential risk, the IPR Cell and the College of Forestry of Kerala Agricultural University motivated the people of Nilambur to protect their rights legally, by registering the unique product as a Geographical Indication under the GI Act.

The Nilambur Teak Heritage Society joined hands with the Kerala Agricultural University to register Nilambur teak as a GI product of India. The IPR Cell of KAU coordinated the legal procedures. Scientific studies to validate the unique qualities of Nilambur teak were done at KAU’s College of Forestry. The KFRI Centres at Peechi and Nilambur and the Kerala Forest Department also supported the venture.

The preparations for registering Nilambur teak were initiated with a workshop of stakeholders organised by KAU in 2013. The application for GI registration was submitted to the GI Registry, Chennai, in December 2015. The modalities completed, the formality of bestowing the GI tag on Nilambur teak is expected at the next sitting of the Registry, according to KAU sources. Members of Nilambur Teak Heritage Society, Coordinator of KAU’s IPR Cell and experts from the College of Forestry have been asked to attend the sitting at the GI Registry, scheduled for the end of February.

GI registration of Pokkali rice, one of the first Kerala produces to get the GI tag, meanwhile, has been renewed. Other Kerala products with GI registration include Vazhakulam Pineapple, Wayanadan rice varieties Jeerakasala and Gandhakasala, Tirur Betel vine, Central Travancore Jaggery and Chengalikodan Nendran, a banana variety.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Stats> Kerala / by Mini Maringatheri / Thrissur – February 10th, 2017

Going native

Media entrepreneur M.R. Hari rears Cheruvally cows | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Many city dwellers are rearing native cattle breeds

Veterinarian Easwaran E.K. is passionate about cows, specifically breeds native to Kerala. Among his prized bovines is a six-year-old pure breed Vechur cow that he rears on his home farm in Aruvikkara. For media entrepreneur M.R. Hari though, it’s Cheruvally cows that have captured his interest. He rears five of these cows that are endemic to villages in central Kerala in his farm at Puliyarakonam.

Not too far away, in Malayam, government employee and dairy farmer Suraj S. considers a playful 10-month-old Kasaragod dwarf, yet another native breed, as the star of his 40-strong herd. For R.G. Arundev, an award-winning dairy farmer from Balaramapuram, meanwhile, his herd of indigenous cows, comprising two Vechurs, two Kasaragod dwarfs and North Indian natives Gir, Sahiwal, Kankrej and Krishna Valley, are his favourites within his herd of 87 cattle…

At a time when the hullabaloo over Jallikattu turns the spotlight on the need to preserve native breeds, there are quite a few farmers and agriculturalists in the city who have already taken the bull by the horns and are helping to conserve indigenous cattle of Kerala. “Native breeds are the BMWs of dairy farming!” says Hari.

“They’ve become so rare and consequently expensive that it’s now become a bit of a prestige issue for people to rear them” he adds. Suraj is one of them.

“It’s very difficult to procure a Vechur cow and also they cost a bomb – upwards of 1.5 lakh. The next best bet was a Kasaragod dwarf. I bought 10 of them from Kasaragod but had to sell them because they are naturally free-ranging animals and there was no space at home for them to roam at will,” he says. Unlike ‘super cows’ the native breeds are easy to rear, say the farmers. “All that they require are green grass, fresh water and plenty of sun. These animals are very hardy and have a make-up that’s suitable to our climate and as such rarely fall ill, ” says Suraj, who turned to dairy farming when he hit 30 nine years ago. “I don’t think of it as business but my way of giving back to society. It gives me great satisfaction,” he adds.

For many of them, though, their interest in organic farming appears to have led them to native breeds.

Dr. Easwaran, a veterinary surgeon at the Animal Husbandry department, for instance, practices Subash Palekar’s zero-budget natural farming, for which native cattle are essential. “Their manure is rich in microbes that can revive the fertility and nutrient value of soil. Their discharges have medicinal properties,” explains the vet. “I have a professional interest in conservation of native breeds but it’s also my passion. At home we’ve always reared cows,” he adds.

Hari also practices zero-budget agriculture. “Actually, converting rocky or barren land to fertile natural forest is my passion. For that I need indigenous, cows, goats, hens and so on. To me these animals are small organic processing units that send many nutrients from native shrubs, trees and herbs that they eat, back to the soil,” says the entrepreneur.

His interest in cows stems from the pioneering efforts of Sosamma Iype, a professor of Animal Breeding and Genetics in College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, to bring back the Vechur cow from extinction. “I went to film a documentary on her and was blown away by what she had achieved and I immediately resolved to buy native cattle,” he explains.

That said, native breeds are not cash cows when it comes to the quantity of milk. “They produce much less milk per day than European or hybrid breeds. From a Vechur cow, for instance, one can get a maximum of two litres of milk per day and that’s pushing it. Compare that to an average of 20 litres from a Holstein-Friesian,” says Arundev, a CISF officer-turned-dairy farmer. It’s the quality that counts.

“There is high demand for their milk, cowdung and urine, all of which have medicinal value. Most of my customers are Ayurveda companies. I have to get up with the cows to collect the first discharges of the day and squeeze the first milk out of them, for they are all top dollar, literally and figuratively,” says Arundev.

Did you know?

Kerala has several indigenous breeds – Vechur, Cheruvally, Kasaragod dwarf, Kuttampuzha dwarf, Vadakara and Vilwadri, though only the Vechur is officially recognised as a ‘native’ breed. Pure breed native cattle are always of single colour,says Dr. Easwaran.

Cow conservation

Sosamma Iype motivated a group of environmentally-conscious university students to conduct an extensive search for Vechur cows and bulls. The Vechur Conservation Project was launched in Veterinary College, Thrissur, in July 1989 with eight animals. Today, there are, reportedly, 1600 or so Vechur cattle in Kerala. The Vechur Conservation Trust came into being in 1998 and is now ‘dedicated to the cause of domestic animal diversity conservation.’ (Source: PIB, Government of India).

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by Nitya Sathyendran / Thiruvananthapuram – February 10th, 2017

Tribe offers clues to hidden wonders of medicinal plant

Based on traditional knowledge of Cholanaickan tribe

A medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka could offer scientists the key to new herbal formulations and modern drugs for the treatment of cancer and wounds and burns.

Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) here have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus used by the Cholanaickan tribe, one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala, to treat inflammations and wounds.

The researchers have filed for a patent on a novel herbal drug formulation possessing wound-healing, burn-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immuno- enhancing, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects.

The scientists came to know of the miracle plant in 1988 during a biological survey deep inside the Nilambur forests. The team led by S. Rajasekharan, former Head, Ethnomedicine and Ethnopharmacology division, JNTBRI, came across Kuppamala Kaniyan, a tribal elder, with hideous scars right across his chest. On inquiry, it was revealed that he had been terribly mauled by a bear a few years ago.

“We were told that the animal had pinned him down and was trying to rip open his chest. The bleeding tribesman somehow fought back and managed to hack the bear to death,” says Dr. Rajasekharan. “It took three days of persuasion before Kuppamala Kaniyan revealed how he had made a paste from the fresh leaves of N.calycinus, known in local parlance as ‘pacha chedi,’ to arrest the bleeding and heal the fresh wounds on his chest.”

Systematic documentation of traditional knowledge helped scientists take up the research work later.

Animal trials have proved that the leaves of N.calycinus possess wound-healing properties comparable to the standard drug Povidone/ Iodine in the early phase of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory activity of the leaves was found comparable to the drug diclofenac sodium.

The pre-clinical trials confirmed the therapeutic effects of N.calycinus against burn wounds and pain, besides its immuno-enhancing, platelet augmentation, and anti-oxidant potential. The presence of high Vitamin E content and potent cytoprotective activity in cell lines in the plant species have also enhanced the prospects of developing an anti-cancer drug.

In a presentation that won the best paper award at the Kerala Science Congress last month, Aneeshkumar A.L., a member of the research group, said the work had thrown up promising leads for the development of novel herbal formulations and modern medicines.

“It will now need multi-institutional studies to take the work forward,” says Dr. Rajasekharan.

The paper said the JNTBGRI would share the commercial benefits of its work with the dwindling Cholanaickan tribe.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech> Science / T Nandakumar / Thiruvananthapuram – February 04th, 2017