RAIPUR: To promote agro-industry in tribal belt, agriculture department has sowed 4,000 saplings of black pepper in a village in Maoist-affected Kondagaon district .
This will help generate additional income for tribals living in the area, said an official.
Explaining the thought behind planting black pepper in the district, an official said there are as many as 59,000 sal trees in 1,000 acres of Salfipadar village. Black pepper is a woody climber, and it reaches of height of 10 metres with the help of its aerial roots. "The strong trunks of sal trees are ideal to aid the growth of black pepper climbers, which is why 4,000 saplings of the spice were planted in the village."
The local tribes also gather sal trees, which are sold in the open market for soil extraction. Sal seeds from Bastar are bought by exporters who produce vegetable oil — which is further used in preparing cosmetic body butters and base in food creams and spreads.
"The cultivation of black pepper will generate additional income for the farmers, who can sell black pepper balls in markets … pepper farming is expected to change the economic state of the region in three to four years," said the official.
As per agriculture scientists, it takes nearly three years for the black pepper plant to fully develop after which their vines start bearing fruits. Its growth slows down in winter season, but it flowers all year round.
One sapling can produce nearly 1,000 vines per acre — based on which, income from each plant is estimated to be around Rs1,500, said the official.
In addition to pepper, banana and papaya plants will be planted on 10 acres of land each in the village — to further agro-forestry in the region.
Community forest rights are also being leased by the district administration for immediate benefit to the local villagers, so that they can conserve the plantations, said the official, adding that with the cultivation of black pepper, Saliphadar village will become a role model for other villages.
Saliphadar is a unique village. The residents say, their ancestors have managed the forests for generation and they are continuing with the tradition. Every Sunday, the villagers meet to discuss forest conservation methods. It is mandatory that at least one member of the 72 families be involved in conservation. Village-level committees have also been formed by the locals to protect the forests.