Himachal’s aloe vera crop: In comes money, out goes monkeyBy Vishal Gulati, IANS
Thursday, January 20, 2011
SHIMLA - Aloe vera, the highly sought after cactus-like plant with multiple medicinal and therapeutic properties, is bringing home good returns for Himachal Pradesh farmers - with an added benefit. It is keeping the monkeys away!
Cultivation of the medicinal plant is fast picking up in the state. According to forest department officials, it is more successful in those areas where other crops are practically impossible due to the monkey menace.
“Aloe vera is safe from monkeys because they just don’t like the plant. It is not in their food chain,” chief forest conservator G.S. Goraya told IANS.
He said its plantation in the Rajgarh area of Sirmaur district is quite successful and now the department is planning to promote its cultivation in other areas too where crops get destroyed by monkeys.
The government launched two community-driven plantation schemes in 2009 - “Sanjha Van, Sanjeevni Van” and “Apna Van, Apna Dhan” - and provided over 10 million saplings of medicinal species free of cost to the people.
Under the first scheme, saplings were planted across the state in forest areas, while under the other, plantation was done only on privately owned barren land.
In Rajgarh, the joint forest management committees persuaded the locals to diversify from the traditional crops and take to the cultivation of medicinal plants which are more remunerative.
As a result, plantations of aloe vera have come up over 15 hectares of private lands along with amla and bahera, both medical plants.
Another official of the forest department said aloe vera is ready for marketing now with an expected yield of about 20 quintals (2,000 kg).
The government has already signed a contract with Patanjali Yogpeeth of Swami Ramdev for purchase of medicinal plants, including aloe vera, from the farmers directly. Dubbed a miracle herb, aloe vera is used for making ayurvedic medicines, pulp, juice and other natural products for building immunity to various illnesses and is known to contain amazing properties of skin care, particularly against burns and cuts.
Naresh Verma, a farmer in Naina Tikker village, told IANS: “The cultivation of aloe vera not only brings profit but also reduces the headache of keeping monkeys away from the fields. The monkeys are not attracted to aloe vera as they don’t find it edible.”
More area would be brought under the cultivation of aloe vera this year and other farmers would also be motivated to go for it, he added.
Encouraged by the success, the forest department has raised about 18,000 more plants for distribution among farmers in the Rajgarh area.
Goraya said the cultivation of aloe vera is more successful in the lower hills as the crop is highly susceptible to frost.
Vinay Tandon , principal chief conservator of forests, said aloe vera cultivation would be promoted in those areas in the state where monkeys are mainly responsible for crop destruction.
Himachal Pradesh has been facing a problem of marauding monkeys that have been ruining standing crops. Thousands of farmers in Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una, Mandi and Kangra districts have incurred losses mainly due to the monkey menace.
As per forest department estimates, more than 900,000 farmers are affected by over 300,000 monkeys that mainly target the cereal and fruit crops, causing extensive damage to the farmers.
In November last year, the government had allowed a large number of farmers to kill monkeys. However, the Himachal Pradesh High Court Jan 6 put on hold the state’s decision to allow farmers to shoot monkeys.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)