Cultivation of lemongrass has not only earned praise for women in many villages in Gumla district of Jharkhand, but also make them economically self-reliant.
No less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised these women in his monthly Mann ki Baat radio programme.
At least 30 women self-help groups are involved in the cultivation of lemongrass in Bishnupur block, who have been roped in under the aegis of Sakhi Mandals to cultivate medicinal plants. Lemongrass is one of the main medicinal plants grown here.
The women growers, with the help of Kisan Seva Kendras, are doing value-addition to their yield and earning good profits in big markets.
Officials said members of around 500 Sakhi Mandals were working with the help from Kisan Seva Kendra and earning in lakhs from the cultivation of lemongrass.
Lemongrass or citronella is a tall, stalky plant with a fresh, lemony aroma and a citrus flavour. It is a common ingredient in Thai cooking. It is also a bug repellent, and has antimicrobial properties. It also aids in digestion and is beneficial in controlling cholesterol and weight loss. Its essential oil is used in aromatherapy to freshen the air, reduce stress, and uplift the mood.
Rehkooba Toli resident Sumati Devi started lemongrass cultivation on 60 dismil (one dismal equals 435.6 sq feet) of land after taking a loan from the self-help group. She said: “We had never heard of lemongrass before. But after our experience with its cultivation, we recommend it to others as well. Lemongrass grows wonderfully in infertile land.”
A visibly confident and happy Sumati Devi said that she took training from the Kisan Seva Kendra before getting into lemongrass cultivation in January. She said that despite the lockdown, she had earned Rs 1.10 lakh as against an expenditure of Rs 20,000 only.
Navagarh Seerka resident Roopmurti Devi was happy with the praise earned from the Prime Minister. She said she had earned Rs 1.45 lakh through lemongrass cultivation on 50 dismil, adding that there has been a marked improvement in her family’s economic condition after this endeavour.
Her co-villager Basanti Devi said that they came to know about the cultivation of lemongrass after connecting with the Sakhi Mandal in the area.
“The very idea of growing the medicinal plants on infertile and ‘taddh’ land was an added attraction. We are earning good money from the initiative,” she added.
Benty village resident Sushanti Devi said she got into lemongrass cultivation in 2018 on a 10-acre farmland. She said she has harvested lemon grass slips (leaves) worth Rs 25 lakh till date.
She pointed out that lemon grass could be grown on less fertile soil as well. Once planted, one could harvest the leaves four or five times a year for the next five years, she pointed out.
Under the aegis of the Rural Development Department and Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society, the lemongrass cultivation has been taken up in 31 blocks of 16 districts of Jharkhand by more than 16,500 farmers.
An official said that 1,150 staff has been deployed to offer technical help and advice to farmers taking up lemongrass cultivation.