Photo Essays

Harnessing the Essence of Wilderness In the evergreen rain forests of Wayanad district in Kerala, four SHG women are gathering wild lemongrass for their autonomous production of aromatic essential oil. PHOTO ESSAYS

Lemongrass is a perennial aromatic plant, which grows wildly in the hills of Kerala. About 40 years ago Kerala’s tribal communities have used lemongrass as a primary source of income. Firewood, as it was more available at that time, was utilized for burning and heating to extract the oil. Over time the practice has become less common.

In Valaramkunnu village in Wayanad district, nature has provided lemongrass in abundance. In order to harness this wealth without disrupting the balance of flora and fauna, the practice of essential oil distillation was revived. The traditional craft was combined with modern technology by students and faculty from the Center for Wireless Networks & Applications (Amrita WNA) of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University. A distillation unit was set up, utilising solar energy in the heating process.

As part of this initiative, four members of Amritavarshini and Sudhamayi Self-Help Group (SHG) received training organized by Amrita SeRVe on the production process. The plan is to form a joint liability group (JLG) with these four women, get registration and a license to sell the organic lemongrass oil they are already producing. Benefits of forming a JLG are that members are equally responsible for their finances and operations, and this model can easily be formed inside of an SHG.

The following photo essay gives insight into the training leading to the final product ready to sell.

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