Reviving aroma of cinnamon

Reviving aroma of cinnamon

The women of Shambhavi and Shambulingeshwar self-help groups (SHGs) are a brave lot. Explains 26-year-old Laxmi Naik, “Cinnamon,  which is a medicinal plant and a spice of great value, was available in plenty in our village (Teppige in Sirsi taluk).

In 2004, when the Forest Department withdrew the ban on extraction of cinnamon leaves, the trees started to bear the brunt of this rampant collection of leaves. It was at that point in time that we stopped a truck laden with cinnamon leaves and confiscated the keys.

However, the mafia involved was successful in getting the lorry freed. That incident made us even more determined to conserve natural forests.'' Laxmi’s compatriots Ganga, Shashikala, Savitri and other team members have now taken an oath not to allow anyone to touch these sacred trees.

Major source of income

Non-Timber Forest Produces (NTFP) such as cinnamon, garcinia gummigatta, garcinia indica, myristica malabaricum and the like are a major source of income to hundreds of people and the Forest Department as well in Uttara Kannada district. The Forest Department in Canara circle earns crores of rupees from NTFP every year.

Cinnamon is one of the major non-timber forest produce species found in the forest regions of Western Ghats. Although it is grown for its bark, its leaves and buds have a lot of economic value. There are about five species of cinnamon in the wild, but two species cinnamomum malabaricum and cinnamomum riparium are found in Uttara Kannada district. Between 1994 and 2004, there was a ban on collection of cinnamon leaves. But after that, ban was withdrawn till the year 2006.

The Forest Department had issued tenders to certain people to collect leaves as NTFP is one of the major sources of revenue for the department. The condition before issuing tenders was that branches should not be cut down beyond pencil thickness. The contractors appointed labourers or they harvest the leaves with the help of villagers. A person would be assigned to collect the leaves from villagers who are in turn paid for their work.

In 2006, the Forest Department banned collection of cinnamon leaves. But, there was no ban on collection of buds. According to residents of villages in the region, harvesting of cinnamon buds and leaves has been going on for as long as 70 years. This only increased when tenders were issued by the department for collection of cinnamon leaves.

Now, four years later, Teppige Village Forest Committee President Kamalakar Naik and Ganesh Hegde conducted a survey in four villages including Teppige, Hasanagi, Kudragod and Shirasgaon in Hulekal range forest region to ascertain the number of cinnamon trees, regeneration status and the impact of harvesting, under the guidance of Prakruti Association.

Explains Kamalakar Naik, “Endemic species like cinnamon are on the verge of extinction in the area because, after collecting the cinnamon leaves indiscriminately, the contractors neglected the tree and the higher officials concerned turned a blind eye towards these chopped trees. Indiscriminate collection of leaves along with the buds has caused poor regeneration of the species.”

As per the survey, 839 cinnamon trees were found in Teppige village out of which 222 were dead, 256 trees severely lopped and only 41 were not harvested. In Hasanagi village, 1545 trees were found. Out of them, 146 were dead, 262 were severely lopped and 286 trees have been saved from the axes. In Kudragod village out of 647 cinnamon trees 17 were dead, 67 chopped and 234 have been spared the axe.

According to the records of Canara Forest Circle, in 2004-05, 259 tonnes, 546 tonnes and 467 tonnes of cinnamon leaves were auctioned in Honnavar, Karwar and Sirsi forest divisions respectively. In 2005-06, 214 tonnes, 1092 tonnes and 608 tonnes of cinnamon leaves were auctioned in the same regions. The department explains that it has already planted 3500 seedlings of cinnamon this year giving an impetus to regeneration of cinnamon.

Strides of women

The welcome development is that self-help groups and Stree Shakti Sangha members in Karoor, Teppige, Nadimane, Savale and Shirasgaon have grown endemic species like myristica malabaricum, cinnamomum malabaricum, artocorpus, mangifera indica, garcinia species and other seedlings in the nurseries. As many as 14 SHGs have grown a 1,000 plants each and 2,000 plants have been implanted in different forest areas. 

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