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Prospects and challenges of medicinal plant cultivation in homesteads of Thrissur district


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Mercykutty, M J
Department of Agricultural Extension, College of Horticulture, Vellanikkara
Medicinal plants,
Prospects and challenges of medicinal plant cultivation

Medicinal plants are priceless gifts of nature. The State of Kerala is enormously graced with a rich biodiversity of medicinal plants due to its diverse agro-climatic conditions. In Kerala, cultivation of medicinal plants is confined to homesteads, along the boundary of farms, forest areas, leased land and as intercrops in coconut or rubber plantations. Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing units and practitioners use considerable quantities of parts of medicinal plants as raw drugs. Consequently there is excessive harvest of medicinal plants from forest areas which seriously threatens not only the future supply but also leads to extinction of medicinal plant species. For sustainable utilization of medicinal plants these species are to be conserved, hence it is necessary to cultivate medicinal plants to meet the internal and external demand. The study was primarily intended to assess the knowledge of homestead farmers on cultivation of medicinal plants, profile characteristics of homestead farmers and the influence of socio-economic attributes on knowledge level. The medicinal plant diversity, use of medicinal plants as home-remedies and ITK were documented and challenges in medicinal plant cultivation were analyzed. The study also tried to prescribe suggestions for popularization and area expansion of medicinal plant cultivation. The study was conducted in the Thrissur district of Kerala state. The sample included 90 farmers drawn from 3 blocks of the district namely Kodakara, Pazhayannur and Wadakkanchery and 30 extension personnel. Data were collected by using structured interview schedules and focused group discussions. The results revealed that 68.90 per cent of medicinal plant cultivators had medium knowledge level on cultivation of medicinal plants with Mean Score Index (MSI) of 65.26. It was observed that Kodakara block had highest MSI in production (93.30) followed by plant protection (70.00) technologies. However, all the three blocks had comparatively low MSI for post-harvest technologies. Correlation of profile characteristics with knowledge level showed that out of 20 variables, 16 variables had significant and positive relationship. The variables mass media exposure, social participation, trainings undergone, education and attitude towards organic farming had shown higher positive correlation with knowledge. The study also assessed the diversity of medicinal plants in homesteads. Pazhayannur and Wadakkanchery blocks recorded almost similar high diversity (0.905 and 0.904 respectively) of medicinal plants followed by Kodakara block (0.861). Sixty two medicinal plants were identified which are very commonly seen in the study area including 11 medicinal trees, 17 medicinal shrubs, 27 medicinal herbs and 7 climbers. Documentation of indigenous traditional knowledge on use of medicinal plants was done along with identification of common home remedies. The study revealed that respondents are highly knowledgeable about use of medicinal plants as home remedies. The major challenges in medicinal plant cultivation perceived by farmers of Wadakkanchery and Pazhayannur blocks were lack of marketing facilities, poor knowledge on cultivation aspects and post-harvest handling, exploitation of middlemen and inadequate storage facilities. However, Kodakara farmers had perceived differently. These could be overcome by providing peripatetic trainings focused on knowledge and skills, promoting group farming and buy back arrangements with medicine manufacturers and ensuring adequate price. Major interventions required for promotion of medicinal plant cultivation are providing proper marketing channels and minimizing involvement of middle men. Farmers should be made aware of the agencies through which they could possibly sell their products. For fostering medicinal plant cultivation, awareness cum training programmes on production practices, preservation, processing and cluster farming under societies can be popularized among homestead farmers and self-help groups. For promising areas, strategies for encouraging entrepreneurship may be designed and implemented.



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