Vegetables grown by migrant tribal people in Andhra a hit in markets
Like Laxmi, hundreds of Adivasi families have migrated from strife-torn areas of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, unable to withstand the continued Maoist violence and counter-insurgency operations by the police, to the border areas
It has been more than seven years since 40-year-old Kadem Laxmi, a Koya tribe, ran for her life with her daughter from the Maoist-affected Bastar region of Chhattisgarh and fled to a border town in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district.
While fleeing her native place, Laxmi packed along with a basket of legume seeds. After she settled in Terepadu, a tribal hamlet in the deep forests of Chintoor block, which is now part of the newly-formed Alluri Sitarama Raju district, she sowed these seeds in her backyard for the consumption of her own family.
Little did Laxmi expect then, growing these legume seeds turned out to be her livelihood. The variety of beans she has been growing since then has become a big hit in the local weekly markets in her locality, and she has been making good money by selling these vegetables.
“These beans or legumes are different from the ones grown in the villages of Andhra Pradesh or Telangana. They are grown on hilly terrains in a completely organic way and are very tasty. There is now a big demand for this variety of beans,” said Satyanarayana, a local farmer.
According to Jatavat Venkatesh, activist of a local NGO Jan Vikas Society who works with migrant Adivasis of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, a half-kg of these beans would fetch them not less than ₹30. “Every week, Laxmi makes not less than ₹500-600 only through the sale of legumes,” he said.
Like Laxmi, hundreds of Adivasi families have migrated from strife-torn areas of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, unable to withstand the continued Maoist violence and counter-insurgency operations by the police, to the border areas of East Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh and Bhadradri Kothagudem, Mulugu and Jayashankar Bhupalpally districts of Telangana in the last 15-20 years.
According to an estimate by National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, around 50,000 people from Chhattisgarh and Odisha migrated to border areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the last 20 years.
Habituated to cultivating millets, vegetables, tamarind and spices in the forest areas of Chhattisgarh and Odisha for several generations, these tribal groups brought the seeds along with them and have been growing them in the fields they have developed in the interior areas by cutting down the trees.
“Initially, they were growing vegetables, spices and millets only for their consumption. Later, they started selling their produce in limited quantities in the weekly markets in the adjacent plain areas. As they started generating good demand, they increased production of these agricultural products to make more money,” Venkatesh said.
For example, a wide variety of beans called Perma Jata, Judung Jata, Kusir Jata, Bamboo Jata, Luge Jata, Perma Chikudi etc, which are not seen in any other parts of the Telugu states are grown by these migrant Adivasis and sold in the local markets. “Compared to normal beans, they are very long and have a good taste too. They have a big demand in the local markets,” he said.
Similarly, Boriya Mirchi (chilly) produced by these Adivasis also has a big demand. The seeds of this type of Mirchi were brought from tribal hamlets of Odisha. “Unlike other chillies, the Boriya chillies are dwarf, round and in dark red colour. They are extremely spicy – just two pieces are enough to spice up a 500 gms of curry,” said Satyanaryana of Mamillagudem hamlet.
Now, these Boriya chillies are in high demand in the local markets of Chintoor, Charla, Bhadrachalam and surroundings. “They fetch around ₹40,000 to each family in a season, despite cultivating one or two acres of land in the forests,” he said.
They also produce a different variety of tomatoes, which the Adivasis call Ramudi Pandlu (fruits of Rama), which look like cherries and brinjals (eggplant). “Since the tribes do not use any fertilisers or pesticides and grow these vegetables in a natural environment, they are very delicious. Moreover, they are produced all through the year,” Venkatesh said.
Jan Vikas Society has taken up the task of preserving the seeds of these rare vegetable varieties and is planning to provide them a proper marketing mechanism. “They are pure and grown in a natural environment. We need to preserve them and popularise them,” Venkatesh added.