KOCHI:The Forest Department has started involving the local people in the cultivation of medicinal plants in forest.
The initiative is aimed at improving the quality of cultivation, rather than scaling up production. The cultivation of medicinal plants in forest was launched two years ago, following the sanction given by the National Medicinal Plant Board (NMPB) for the project.
In the initial phase, cultivation was launched in 12 forest divisions in the State. Around 10 species, which are currently not available easily in the forest, have been identified for plantation.
S C Joshi, principal chief conservator of forests (development and PFM), said that the plantation of medicinal plants was currently being done with a different perspective. Earlier, it was decided to go for mass plantation. Now, it has been decided to ensure that the plants produce good quality medicines.
“Now, the plantation of medicinal plants is being done by involving the local people, mainly tribals and people living near the forest. They have been informed that it is more important to ensure that the plants produce good quality medicines than going for mass plantation,” Joshi said. When the medicinal plants are planted, the distribution aspect was also taken care of, so as to pass on its benefits to the local people. Currently, there are several middlemen involved in the sale of medicinal plants, who reap huge profits while the locals the left with meager returns.
According to Joshi, there are some medicinal plants that ripen in three-seven years. The benefits of the project will be reach the stakeholders in a few years.
Ayurveda Medical Association of India president Dr C Vinod Kumar said that certain species of medicinal plants are scarce in Kerala as plantation is not being done as per the requirements of the market.
“Those engaged in the cultivation of medicinal plants should be made aware of the market demand so that the medicines would be available to the ayurveda medicine industry. The efforts by the Forest Department in this regard is a positive sign. The Department should consider planting trees as per demand, in future also,” said Vinod Kumar. While encouraging the cultivation of medicinal plants, the government should also give a guarantee to buy them. The State Medicinal Plant Board is currently active in this area, and is encouraging the plantation of medicinal plants. Ayurveda Medical Association sub-committee convener Dr Razi said that cultivation of medicinal plants in forest areas was being encouraged by the Association to tackle the scarcity of medicinal plants.
“Currently, plants that can be used as medicine in a short span after cultivation are given priority, so that the farmers could get returns in two-three years. In Kerala, the demand for ‘aadalodakam’ (Malabar nut) is 700 tonne a year. But, only 100 tonne of quality aadalodakam is available in Kerala, and those in the ayurveda industry are forced to use low-quality products,” he said.