Amid COVID-19 pandemic-induced adversity, a group of tribal women of Mucherla village in Kamepalli mandal is trying to chart a path towards self-reliance by exploring the nutritional potential of moringa (drumstick) leaves.
The district is well known for moringa cultivation and the nutrient-rich plants are being grown on an estimated 143 acres in Raghunadhapalem, Khammam rural and other mandals adjoining Kamepalli mandal, sources said.
The seedpod of the moringa tree is widely used for culinary purposes and the moringa leaves are a storehouse of nutrients. There is a huge demand for moringa leaf powder mainly for its rich iron content that helps tackle malnutrition and prevent anaemia.
To capitalise on the growing demand for moringa leaf powder, a Joint Liability Group (JLG) of some local tribal women has set up Sri Rama Moringa Processing Unit in Mucherla recently. The unit had been inaugurated by Tribal Welfare Minister Satyavathi Rathod on January 30.
It forms the crux of the collaborative initiative of the Central and State governments and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, to promote entrepreneurship among tribal women, meet the nutritional needs of the local communities and foster sustainable livelihoods.
As per ICRISAT’s collaborative plan, the food processing unit is expected to provide substantial value addition to locally grown moringa and benefit local farmers.
Leaf powder supply
The government agencies concerned are mulling over a proposal to supply moringa leaf powder to the Tribal Welfare residential educational institutions through the Telangana Girijan Cooperative Corporation, sources added.
The tribal women of Mucherla had undergone training in food processing and entrepreneurship at ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) last year, said Sujatha, Assistant Director (Agriculture), ITDA, Bhadrachalam.
The trained women formed the JLG and subsequently set up the moringa powder processing unit with the support of Tribal Cooperative Finance Corporation Ltd (TRICOR) to market moringa powder as a health supplement.
The unit is well equipped to process around three to five quintals of moringa leaves per day to make powder out of the leaves in hygienic conditions.
It has already started operations on a trial basis and the full-fledged commercial production will start soon. Modalities are being worked out to finalise the marketing tie-ups and launch the product in the market at the earliest in compliance with the norms, she said.