From Bane To Boon: Jharkhand’s Tribal Women Use ‘Mahua’ Flowers for Income
Kalinga TV News Network
By- Md. Mojahid Raza
‘Mahua’ is a tree found in abundance in the forests of Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The flowers of the Mahua tree are commonly used for brewing the country-made liquor, which is the most dreadful and abhorred element in rural societies, owing to its potential of destroying homes and lives.
Despite multiple health benefits and medicinal uses, the Mahua tree is looked down as a curse due to its role in the production of country made liquor. However, things are changing in Sosai village of Jharkhand, where women are using this so-called dreadful tree to generate livelihood and income.
The lives of many tribal women in Sosai took a drastic turn when they came in touch with Latifolia Enterprises, a company that manufactures and sells laddoos made of Mahua.
Latifolia Enterprises is an all-women company set up in 2017 by a social organisation named Torang Trust. It has emerged as a saviour for the tribal households by training tribal women to make laddoos out of the mahua flower, instead of using it to brew liquor.The changes which the company brought about in the lives of the tribal women has been tremendously impactful.
Reminiscing about her life journey from a roadside liquor-seller to an entrepreneur, a tribal woman Puniya states that it was embarrassing to sit on the roadside and sell mahua liquor. But she was helpless as it was the only source of income available for her family. She further reveals that men used to sit at her stall, drink alcohol and occasionally pass a comment or two on her. But she had no option other than bearing the embarrasement silently. However, after joining Latifolia Enterprises, she has started living a dignified life.
After a while, Puniya gradually roped in other women from her village to use the mahua flowers for making laddoos, and today, her village has become alcohol-free, all thanks to the life altering impacts of Latifolia Enterprises.
Another lady named Sarojini Minj, who accompanies Puniya in this task, says that over the last few months the orders for Mahua laddoos have increased so much that the flowers from their village do not suffice. The order for laddoos sometimes goes up to 50 kgs, forcing the women to buy mahua flowers from neighbouring villages. Apart from this, Sarojini and Mahua are further trying to rope in more women in the industry, owing to shortage of manpower.
The Mahua laddoos have removed the problems of alcoholism from the village. This is because all the Mahua flowers produced in the villages are used to make laddoos, thereby leaving nothing for brewing liquor.
Apart from this, Mahua laddoos have immense nutritious value. They also help in addressing problems of malnutrition, are rich in proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins and helps in curing diseases and illness like paralysis, epilepsy and pyrea.
On a positive note, a tribal woman states that laddoo manufacturing has definitely made their lives happier and dignified. She adds that if the mahua flowers produced in all the villages of Jharkhand are used to make laddoos, then there will be nothing left for brewing liquor, and like Sosai, all the tribal villages of Jharkhand will become alcohol-free.
At present, over 1,000 tribal women are working with Latifolia Enterprises, directly or indirectly, and are involved in various works, from picking mahua flowers to the making and packaging of the laddoos. These Mahua laddoos have high demands not only in Jharkhand but also in the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.