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A Paliyan community in the Thekkady Forest of India’s Kerala State has gotten involved in a scheme to supply organic pepper to a new commercial venture. According to a news story last week, Natural Harvest (India) Pvt, Ltd, has organized the project. It employs 500 families from three different tribal communities that live in the forest—the Mannans, the Uralis, and the Paliyans.

The company is a subsidiary of CGH Earth, a Kerala-based hotel and resort chain that focuses on introducing tourists to the natural and human communities of the state. The tribal communities attract the company because it feels that their traditional experiences with harvesting products are akin to chemical-free, organic farming. It is interesting to learn that the Paliyans are willing to become involved with an agricultural production venture within their forested environment.

The CEO of CGH Earth, Jose Dominic, commented that 8 to 10 tons of pepper have been exported so far to Ecoland Herbs and Spices, a German association of organic farmers that sells the pepper to chefs throughout Germany. He hopes to increase the business of Natural Harvest by branching out into other spices and increasing its export contacts.

The Assistant Manager of Natural Harvest, Antony Varghese, indicated that the tribal communities are also being encouraged to grow ginger, turmeric, and chillies organically for the company to export. He said that portions of the profits are being returned to the communities.

Mr. Varghese added, “Our project has enabled the tribals to revive their traditional organic cultivation which had been replaced over the years … by chemical [fertilizer] oriented farming.” He feels that his company should be a catalyst in developing organic production techniques, which he says should be a natural fit for Kerala. Pepper is native to Kerala, where it has been cultivated and sold for at least four thousand years.