COIMBATORE: Embarking towards entrepreneurship, a group of tribal women from the Kattunayakan community started their own small co-operation unit at Gudalur in Nilgiris district to market their forest produces.
The district revenue officials, in January this year, inaugurated the Nelakottai Kattunayakan Women's Cottage Industry Co-operative at Achchutham Moola in Kottayamedu at Nelakottai.
The men in the tribal community extracted honey and the women procure it from them for sale. They have been selling four varieties of honey for a fair price. They plan to sell produce like greens, yams, spices, wild amla, wild turmeric, ginger, and medicinal herbs that they harvest and value-add more items.
R Sujatha from Vilangoor, the president of the unit, said that totally 21 - 12 women members and nine other contributors, have been working in the unit, collecting forest produces from three villages - Kottayamedu, Vilangoor and Nadukkadu. The unit fetched the tribal women a decent earning, ensuring a sustainable livelihood for their families, she added.
Sobha Madhan, a tribal woman and a district coordinator of the Nilgiris Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (NPVTG) Federation that helped the women set up the unit, said, "The Kattunayakan community people are experts in honey collection."
"Earlier, we sold honey to private sellers for around Rs 200 to Rs 300 a kg. Once the co-operative unit was installed, women procured honey from the men for Rs 600 a kg, and after packaging and labelling, they sold it for Rs 1,000 per kg. They realised that these minor products, with proper marketing, would yield them a good income," she said.
"The tribal women planned to start the unit in 2019, but lockdown restrictions delayed the process. In 2020, they sold honey on a trial basis. Now, it has come into action," said Sobha. Odiyan Lakshmanan, a tribal activist said that earlier, tribal people sold the forest produce to either unknown NGOs or private firms for low rates.
This initiative is expected to develop their marketing skills, he added.Sources said that district administration planned to further market the unit's products in Eco-Development Committee shops across the Nilgiris.