November 25, 2017 3:43:57 am
He stared at the small packet for a long time. The powder inside was brown, something he had never seen before. He pressed the packet with his fingers. The powder was fine. Podiyam Manga brought his nose close to the packet, and almost immediately moved his head backwards. The smell was strong, but wonderful. Manga, from Barsoor in Dantewada, asked the tribal man behind the counter: “What is this?”
The man, from Lamtaput in Odisha’s Koraput answered: “It is coffee.”
“Can I grow it?” was Manga’s next question.
“Of course, you can. The soil in Odisha is not very different. There is a lot of money in coffee,” said the seller. Half-an-hour later, Manga was still at the shop, listening. In Dantewada on November 14, as a precursor to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, the Niti Aayog and the Chhattisgarh government held the first Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit. Dantewada district, otherwise, is in the news only for Maoist violence.
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On Tuesday, tribal entrepreneurs who have started small start-ups in Assam, Odisha and Jharkhand spoke to each other in an exchange of ideas at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Auditorium. Outside the auditorium, many had put up stalls. Local tribals walked to the stalls to ask about items that were unfamiliar. Also, there were imli chutney and drinks from Sukma, handicrafts from Jagdalpur, and two stalls of the National Innovation Centre.
Dantewada, over the past year, has seen almost a revolution in organic farming through Bhoomgadhi, a farmers’ cooperative set up with assistance from the district administration. It is urging farmers to return to indigenous methods of farming, something The Indian Express reported about in March.
Chhattisgarh alone has 22,000 varieties of rice, and in a 10-village sample in Dantewada early this year, as many as 35 varieties of rice were found. “What this means is even 10 km apart, people will not know what rice is grown. So you have not heard of this kind of rice. But it is good for your joints and pains. There is no magic. It cannot work in a day. But grow it and eat it, and it will take care of you,” Gopeshwar Sahu told two elderly women from Geedam.
In front of him were packets of rice with labels Khamang, Chudi, Meherdhan, Red Rice. Bhoomgadhi and one other entrepreneurship start-up from Bastar, which produces local honey and markets it, will also find place among the various showcases at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
Speaking to a gathering at the Dantewada summit through video conferencing, Minister of State for Science and Technology Y S Choudhary said it was time for tribal areas to be developed, and added, “we need to think of developing social infrastructure, and for that we need small entrepreneurs to come forward”. Even as he spoke, Manga sat and talked about coffee.
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