RamayyaPoojari, a resident from Menasi Village (Sirsi) has always relied on selling NTFPs collected from surrounding forest for sustaining his family.He has been selling dried Uppage (Garcinia gummi-gutta)since the past 18 to 20 years. He recalls how the Uppage market boomed in the past 4-5 years, making its collection a lucrative livelihood opportunity.
Uppage is sought after due to the presence of Hydroxycitric acid found in its rindwhich is of high pharmaceutical value as it is known to promote weight loss. It is therefore traded in high quantities each year, and has becomean important source of livelihood for the forest communities of Sirsi, Karnataka. Local communities in Sirsi also use Uppage as an essential ingredient in the traditional cuisines.
Theharvesting season of Uppagecoincides with the heaviest rainfall months in the region, making it essential to dry the fruit rinds within two days of harvest to avoid any fungus or mold attack. Traditional techniques of drying require large amounts of fuelwood; approximately 22 kg of fuelwood is required to obtain 1 kg of dried rind using the open-fire drying technique.As a result, a lot of smoke is created and at times, the fruits get burned as well.
With support from USAID under the IEMaC (Innovations in Ecosystem Management & Conservation) Project, RamayyaPoojari was able to switch to a ‘fuel-efficient ASTRA drier’, which reduced his fuelwood requirement for drying the Garciniafruitby 80 percent. With the open fire technique, there was always a risk of dusty and burnt product, but with the ASTRA drier he is now able to get better grade products as there is no direct contact with fuelwood smoke. Impressed with the fuelwood savings and better grade products, Poojari’sneighbors too have started drying their products in his drier, for which he charges a reasonable rent per tray.
Once theGarciniaproduction season finishes, Poojari uses the drier for drying or adding value to different products such as Arecanut, Cardamom, Jackfruit, and Banana. Hence, apart from reducing fuelwood pressure on forests, the ASTRA driers can provideenhanced livelihood opportunities tolocal rural communities.The efficiency of this pilot installation is fast becoming a widely circulated story, and inquiries are coming in from all over Sirsi. Thus, the Projectnow plans to swiftly scale-up this technologythrough linkages with consumer finance, along with other forms of support.