The indigenous community in Tamil Nadu, Kurumba is listed by the Union government as one of India’s Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups. The Kurumbas are primarily honey collectors, apart from doing small-scale farming for a living, marked by low-level literacy, and economic backwardness among other indicators.
Saraswathi, a Kurumba Community member from Banagudi Village, says, “Our main source of income is honey extraction, as well as Shikakai, Soapnut, and Dhoopa. When collecting dhoopa, we only gather the dried part of the dhoopa, just as when collecting Shikakai or amla, we only collect those that have fallen from the tree, and if we get 10 kg, we take 10 kg. When it comes to environmental protection, we will not dispose of plastic in the vicinity of woods, and we regard forests as sacred because our family deities are forests themselves.”
A collective of the community, Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited, a few months back bagged Equator Prize by the United Nations Development Programme for a green economy, nature-based solutions (through sustainable harvest) and women empowerment.
Jestin Pauls, CEO of Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited, says, “The company was started by an NGO called Keystone Foundation in the early nineties, when they came here you know there were a lot of people from the community who were collecting honey and then they were selling the honey on roadsides. The honey, best packing that they could offer was plastic bottles and beer bottles that were in the garbage. They used to clean it and then they were selling it. That was the only way of packing for them. So, that is when Keystone stepped in and they taught them on hygienic practices of packing honey and then the other factor of sustainable harvesting also came into play, and then we are as of now not you know scrapping off the whole honeycomb of the tree but then we are collecting only the honey part of the honeycomb.”
He further says, “The biggest challenge we have is the erratic climate change that is happening because nowadays we are not able to predict harvest time and the yield of the product, so we are not able to plan the procurement and the sales and it’s always a different time for sales and procurement. So the deterioration of the products is a huge risk for us.”