Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

JHUNU MA­LIK, a res­i­dent of Kan­teikoli tribal vil­lage in Mo­hana taluk of Odisha's Ga­jap­ati dis­trict, takes just two min­utes to peel off the hard, la­tex-filled outer rind of a jack­fruit, and she does not use her bare hands. The dif­fi­cult task is made easy by a wood-plainer used by car­pen­ters. "This small ma­chine has changed my life. Ear­lier, it used to take 10-15 min­utes to peel a jack­fruit. But with this ma­chine it is quick. Since I started us­ing this, I am earn­ing six times more," she says. The ma­chine and train­ing in min­i­mal pro­cess­ing was pro­vided to her by the re­gional cen­tre of the In­dian In­sti­tute of Hor­ti­cul­tural Re­search in Bhubaneswar. "The ma­chine weighs 1.75 kg. We re­duced the weight to 1.5 kg by re­mov­ing some parts," says H S Singh, head of the cen­tre. "We're try­ing to re­duce the weight to 1.25 kg."

The soft-flesh va­ri­ety of jack­fruit grows in abun­dance in Ga­jap­ati and Kand­hamal dis­tricts in the state. Like Jhunu, many women used to col­lect the fruit and sell it for ` 5 per kg to traders, who would sell it as a veg­etable in the mar­kets of Delhi and other north In­dian cities at ` 40-60 per kg. Us­ing the wood-plainer, tribal women in Odisha are en­hanc­ing their skills while in­creas­ing their in­come. "Now that peel­ing jack­fruit is much faster, we cut it into cubes, smear a so­lu­tion to pre­vent browning, pack it and sell it as a veg­etable for ` 30-40 per kg in the lo­cal mar­kets," says Padma Mal­lik, Jhunu's friend. Both of them are of­fice bear­ers of a self-help group of 10 women. There are five such groups in Mo­hana. Each group has one ma­chine, which costs ` 2,200-2,500. The cen­tre also or­gan­ised a train­ing in Fe­bru­ary this year on the min­i­mal pro­cess­ing of raw jack­fruit so that it can be used as a veg­etable and sold by the tribal women lo­cally.

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