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Muthuvar Women on the Road to a GI Tag for their Kannadi Paaya

Starting in 2017, Forest Post takes forward the idea of utilising what forests have to offer without exploitation of resources and, by centralizing the traditional knowledge of communities who, by virtue of living in close harmony with nature, have historically preserved it. 

There is an acknowledgement of the intimate relationship that tribal women share with the environment and the possibilities for the creation of sustainable livelihood opportunities or green jobs from that space.

Value-added forest products marketed by Forest Post.

As a social enterprise, it works with women’s collectives from forest-dwelling communities such as Muthuvar, Malayar, Kadar, and Hill Pulaya to create products by value-addition to minor forest products (MFPs) collected by women, and linking them to the relevant markets. 

With its work spread across six villages in the Western Ghats of Central Kerala, the organisation assists more than 60 women and young people in producing over 40 products currently being marketed by it. The products include a wide variety of self-care products like beeswax-based skincare creams, herbal hair oils and rubs, bamboo crafts such as baskets and mats and value-added wild food like preserves and pickles.

Beeswax skin care products prepared by Adivasi women.

Dr. Manju Vasudevan, the founder of Forest Post spoke about how the process of developing the traditional skills and knowledge of forest-dwelling women into income-generating activities has also been the process of identifying the need for livelihood opportunities which are attuned to the daily pace and rhythm of forest fringe communities. It has also led to the revival of the interest of local youth in learning and preserving their traditional artisan expertise. 

A Kannadi Payya (Source: Forest Post)

Interestingly, the Kannadi Paaya floor mats made by the Muthuvar women are in the middle of getting a Geographical Indications (GI) tag.

The legend has it that the mats were part of the royal celebrations and were frequently given as presents to the kings. The GI recognition will introduce the handiwork of Adivasi women to a larger audience and the hope is that it will help craft-making become an economically sustainable livelihood for them.

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