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Women of Sukh Bhoomi Trust - Weaving a story of empowerment through nutrition

Updated: May 4

Chandrapada (Palghar), Maharashtra - On April 24, 2024 we visited the quaint village & forests of Chandrapada in Palghar district of Maharashtra, with our focus on documenting the forest produce in the region, especially the seasonal raw Karvanda (also known as Karonda). The visit was facilitated by the enterprising women from Sukh Bhoomi, working in the surrounding villages (padas) on nutrition & empowerment of women in the region. Having successfully worked for the past 25+ years, on alleviating the women from nutritional deficiencies, their next step has been towards generating income for the women through forest and Agri produce of the region.

Surekha Maushi & Hirutai foraging raw karvanda
Surekha Maushi & Hirutai foraging raw karvanda

Foraging Forest Produce

Surekha Maushi (read Surekha aunty in English) & Hirutai led us into the forest of Chandrapada, sharing their wisdom & experience while collecting karvanda (Carissa carandas) to make pickles later in the day. Surekha Maushi emphasized significant points to be kept in mind while foraging karvanda. 


She mentioned and we quote,

“We need to be careful that the branches are not damaged while foraging, as they are the sole source of the fruit even in the future”.  

A bucket of water was carried along to transfer the freshly foraged fruits, to prevent the fruits from sticking to their hands or each other, a peculiar trait of freshly forged raw karvanda fruits. Another important learning that Surekha maushi shared was,

“Only mature fruits, slightly larger in size need to be foraged, while smaller ones need to be left on the tree to ripen or mature for future collection”.

Fresh harvest of raw Karvanda in Chandrapada
Fresh harvest of raw Karvanda in Chandrapada

 A similar approach is applied to mahua flowers, which they use to make ladoos. Only fallen flowers are collected, allowing the others to mature into fruits without hampering the natural cycle. Though, the mahua blossom has been unusually timid this season. Surekha Maushi who would be in her late 60s mentions, “this is something I have never experienced in my lifetime”.

 

Processing of Local & seasonal Produce

In Chandrapada, the raw karvanda fruits and other produce are typically processed using traditional recipes, primarily for their own consumption, while the excess to be sold in the markets of Mumbai through the support of Sukh Bhoomi trust and farmers markets. The fresh karvanda we foraged was made into a delicious thecha for lunch & the rest into a pickle. They also make ladoos, savory snacks, herbal teas & papads.


The women with a fresh batch of karvanda pickle
The women with a fresh batch of karvanda pickle

Optimizing Natural Resources using simple modern technology

The women use solar dryers to expedite & improve the quality of the drying process of local forest & agri produce like mahua flowers, curry leaves, moringa leaves, citrus lemon leaves, and lemongrass.

Samta tai (an active member of Sukh Bhoomi Trust), says “these solar dryers have expedited their process and the issue of loss of colour, aroma and taste has also been resolved”.
Curry leaves being solar dried to make a herbal tea mix
Curry leaves being solar dried to make a herbal tea mix

Present day scenario due to climate change

As relayed by Samta Tai, the harvest of Agri and forest production in the region has been negatively affected by erratic & unusual climatic conditions this past year, notably the increase in heat in the current season while we were there. This has resulted in the quantity of produce being just enough for their self-sufficiency. Consequently, they will be unable to bring any produce to the market for sale, potentially resulting in loss of clientele.

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