Veluchami is one of the many Malampandarom tribals who eke out a living by selling medicinal herbs and roots, collected from the deep forests of Marakkootom in Sabarimala and sells them to the pilgrims. Veluchami who claims to be 110 years of age has been engaged in this activity for many years now. Even the policemen on duty on the trekking path, trust his herbal medicines when they fall ill. His tribal cure for snakebite is highly popular among the traders and workers on duty at Sabarimala.
Veluchami says that rare medicinal herbs and plants grow in abundance in the interiors of the shola forests at Ponnambalamedu ‘Kalluvazha’, which produces plantains filled with black seeds and ‘mruthasanjeevani’ (Eupatorium ayyapana) are seen in some pockets of the Ponnambalamedu.
While scouting for the herbs in jungle, he keeps hunger at bay by eating a wild leaf, which keeps him going for the whole day. Many of his regular customers are seasoned devotees who make a visit to him without fail to get their stocks of medicinal herbs. The family of Veluchami shifted to the Adichippuzha tribal settlement in Ranni taluk following a fire outbreak at Sabarimala. Though the tribal is now settled in Chidambarom he still serves the Ayyappa devotes by supplying some of the rare herbs and natural medicines all through the principal Mandalam-Makaravilaku season and during the Vishu and Onam festival when million of pilgrims throng this hill shrine.
Some of the herbs are well known remedies for many serious disease conditions. For instance the seeds of ‘karkolari’ seeds (Psoralia corylifolia), the time tested method in the treatment of leukoderma and Helicteres isora, used in the treatment of body pain, are some of the products lined up for sale at this nondescript seasonal outlet of Veluchami.
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala has set up a role model yet again when it became the first state in the country, where the tribal farmers would directly export organic pepper to Germany. As per the innovative scheme, patronized by the state government, the three tribal communities at Vanchivayil village nestled deep in the Thekkady forests will export their first consignment of over four tones of organic pepper on April 12.
It was only after relentless persuasion of over eighteen months that the tribals could be coaxed to become exporters. The tribals get the full returns for their effort as this system operates sans middlemen.
Periyar Foundation, an apex body of 76 eco-development committees, the Forests Department and the state government has jointly organized the pilot project.
There were a lot of formalities involved in getting the organic certification ready from Lacon International, a company based in Germany apart from the Spices Board of India. At the outset, the German firm operated by the farmers’ society of ”Ecoland Herbs and Spices”, would be the main buyer to procure organic pepper. The best part is that the tribals would be getting over 33 per cent more than what they used to get before for their products as no middlemen are involved in the deal.