A MACHINE EMPOWERS ODISHA'S TRIBAL WOMEN
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.