Pitchandikulam Bio-Resource Centre (PBRC) is working with several women’s self help groups (SHGs) within the Kaluveli bioregion and along the Coromandel Coast.
These groups allow women to have a safe space to address pressing issues, to attend useful training sessions and to take an active role in the development of the community.
Many of these groups establish kitchen herbal gardens and use herbal plants for medicine preparation after attending these workshops. As a result of receiving training in these groups, community members are beginning to utilize organic farming methods on their own land and to grow crops with success. Plantation of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF) species in their villages and setting up indigenous nurseries as income-generating activities help to conserve the biodiversity of the region.
A Women’s Centre has been recently constructed at Nadukuppam Field, which enables woman’s SHGs to meet independently in a safe, stimulating environment. It provides them with the opportunity to expand their horizons and interact with other women and sections of the community – as well as being a hub of information and knowledge. The Centre and its activities encourage women to implement sustainable practices in the village and farming community.
In collaboration with SEDAB, Pitchandikulam has also established Meera Herbal Food, a unit that collects medicinal plant and processes them into food products including chutneys and powders. Meera Herbal Food markets these products under the guidance of Parvathi Nagarajan, a herbalist and entrepreneurship mentor. The unit blends Siddha and traditional herbal knowledge to produce effective medicinal food products. The enterprise is working towards the empowerment and self-sufficiency of local indigenous people.
Amirtha Herbal Medicines is an enterprise that collects medicinal plants and processes them into herbal remedies. These are marketed as natural alternatives to chemical medicines, and sold in local markets. Workshops are offered to the women’s self-help groups to promote kitchen herbal gardens and train women in the preparation of medicines using locally available plants. These efforts help to support and conserve local medicinal traditional knowledge, and make it strongly embodied in a ‘people’s health culture’. This initiative operates under the mentorship of Parvathi Nagarajan who is trained in local traditional herbal practices and community building.
We have also nurtured and supported nurseries managed by women’s groups, trained in growing indigenous plants of our coastal flora. These plants are then purchased for use in eco-restoration projects. The nurseries also supply fruit trees, medicinal plants, vegetables and flower seedlings. Nursery trainees are taken on seed collection trips to remnant forests and sacred groves, where they learn about the trees and plants of the TDEF.