Tulsi- Means of Livelihood

I was amazed when I found one Organic India’s Tulsi Tea Collection sachet in an envelope from ‘Good Housekeeping’, a magazine along with other promotion materials. Yamuna has always kept a tulsi in our residence wherever we lived. Tulsi leaves are also part of our daily prasad. I do use some leaves of tulsi in tea for my morning tea. However, I could never even imagine that tulsi can be cultivated as a regular crop too.

Last week, I happened to come across and went through ‘Tulsi Evangelists‘ in ‘Business Today’. I was just stunned but delighted to know how a plant or shrub that we had been seeing since our childhood being worshipped in our homes has become the source of livelihood for a large number of farmers. And this could happen through an initiative of a foreigner Yoav Lev, presently President and Founder of Organic India.

As the story goes, ‘Lev first came to India with his wife Holly in 1995 to meet his guru H.W.L. Poonja in Lucknow. The couple fell in love with the country. The Israeli-American couple also got introduced to Ayurveda and tulsi. And today Lev propounds, “Tulsi contains hundreds of beneficial compounds known as phytochemicals. Working together, these compounds possess strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and immunity-enhancing properties that promote general health and support the body’s natural defense against stress and illness.” Lev wanted to commercialise tulsi for the benefit of the people. But he needed organically farmed tulsi on a large scale. Lev had a tough time convincing the farmers to grow tulsi instead of regular crops. The couple set up a company called the Indo-Israel Trading Corporation (IITC), which was renamed Organic India last year. The company now employs more than 12,000 contract farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, cultivating tulsi on 50,000 acres of land.

The firm has a diverse product range comprising 15 premium quality Ayurvedic herbal formulations like Ashwagandha, Amalaki, Brahmi, Bowelcare, Breathe Free, Flexibility, Immunity, Herbal Antibiotic, Liver-Kidney Care, Sugar Balance, Triphala, Tulsi, Weight Balance, Women’s Well Being, along with five different blends of Tulsi Tea- Tulsi Original, Ginger, Green, and Tulsi Chai Masala. The company cultivates, collects, processes, manufactures and markets certified organic Tulsi teas, herbal supplements, Psyllium, Castor Oil, Ayurvedic and medicinal herbs, and many other organic foods and organic spices. The Lucknow-based company with associate offices in the US and Israel recently launched 18 new organic flavours of tea which include Pomegranate Green, Chamomile, India Breakfast, Licorice Spice, Passionfruit, Red Chai, Sweet Lemon, Sweet Rose and Vanilla Crème, among others. These blends are being prepared using Rama, Krishna and Vana tulsi leaves, which the company grows organically. According to Lev, they ” have invested close to Rs 50 crore till date in our operations and expect to break even by April 2008.”

For the past few years, the company is also been supplying Ayurvedic herbs to select companies in the US, France, Japan, Germany, Korea, Israel, The Netherlands and Australia. Recently, it has signed an agreement with Germany’s Ulrich Walter GmbH to market Organic India Tulsi Tea products.

Further, the innovative ideas have brought prosperity and stability in the households of the farmers that have gone for cultivating tulsi. The 3-4 month organic crop cultivations provided better margins to the farmers. They ‘get as much as Rs 40,000 from the tulsi crop per season while other crops fetch just around Rs 10,000’. Kailash Nath Singh, one of the pioneer farmers, now gets around Rs 3 lakh from the company for one crop. Even the yield has improved. “In the first year, the crop yielded 2.5 quintal per acre, but now the productivity of the land has increased to 20 quintal per acre.”

To acknowledge the efforts of the farmers, for the last five years, Organic India has been organising an annual event called Tulsi Mahotsava at Azamgarh, which felicitates farmers associated with the farming of tulsi. The organic tulsi has brought about a wave of social change as well. Close to 1,200 socially outcast women are employed as machine operators or for plucking in various villages.”

Is it not very exciting and inspiring story? It certainly delighted me. Indian traditional knowledge available in different parts of the country can provide a huge lot of entrepreneurship opportunities and scope of employment for India’s talented young men and women. Our young men and women must look around and grab the opportunity instead of keeping on blaming the government and trying only the set avenues for employment.

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