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Preserving Traditional Knowledge

A major component of Pitchandikulam Forest’s work is village outreach. We provide training and group facilitation in 25 villages in the Kazhuveli bioregion focused on preserving traditional skills and practices and fostering sustainable livelihoods. A core piece of this work is preserving and teaching ancestral ethnomedicinal skills.

Services offered:

  • Environmental education and student eco-clubs
  • Sustainable agriculture, organic farming, water retention landscapes, irrigation awareness, soil building,
  • Women’s self help and empowerment groups
  • Establishing rural enterprises promoting sustainable livelihoods: tree planting (Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF)
  • Biodiversity, water retention, bringing back diversity by understanding rural community
  • Ethnovetinary,
  • Research-gathering: baseline, community and bio-resource surveys
  • Natural health care, medicinal plants, hygiene, sanitation, HIV/AIDS awareness
  • Income generation initiatives, business skills,
  • Building community relationships, connecting social activities, collaboration
  • Integral training centers, offering training to other institutions, SLI, , extending beyond NK

Working and sharing knowledge through wide networks.
Page for hosting courses –

We preserve and develop local traditional healthcare.  indigenous medicinal plants. To ensure that the knowledge, skills and plants are not lost, we undertake a number of activities within local communities. They include:

  • Setting up enterprises promoting livelihoods based on working with traditional medicinal plants
  • Setting up of indigenous plant health dispensaries and household kitchen herbal gardens
  • Facilitating traditional healers to pass on their knowledge to others through meetings and visits to extant indigenous forest areas
  • Training women’s groups, schoolchildren, teachers, youth clubs, other NGOs and government departments in many aspects of eco-restoration work -with an emphasis on the revitalising of local health traditions
  • Workshops on the preparation of herbal remedies to cure common ailments using plant material from the Pitchandikulam nurseries and gardens; and visits to established medicinal gardens

We help the local communities to develop their infrastructure and knowledge of the region. By collaborating with village leaders, healers, self help groups, youth groups, NGOs, regional government departments and students, Pitchandikulam is deeply involved in environmental issues which impact local populations.

Women’s Self Help Groups

Pitchandikulam Bio-Resource Centre (PBRC) is working with twenty-seven women’s self help groups (SHGs) within the Kazhuveli bioregion and along the Coromandel Coast.

These groups allow women to have a safe space to address pressing issues, to attend useful training sessions and to take an active role in the development of the community.

The groups frequently come to visit to both Pitchandikulam and the Nadukuppam Environmental Education Centre, where they can see examples of medicinal herbal gardens, organic agricultural production, indigenous forests, nurseries, alternative energy in action and spirulina production, as well as a number of other resource materials and displays.

A major component of our work with these groups involves providing training and setting up income generation projects that the women can develop in their own villages. Training workshops are conducted for each group in the areas of:

  1. Organic farming principles
  2. Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF)
  3. Vermicompost production
  4. EM (effective micro-organisms)
  5. Integrated pest management
  6. SRI (system of rice intensification)
  7. Nursery training
  8. Spirulina production
  9. Tailoring
  10. Compressed earth block production
  11. Medicinal plants – herbal medicine preparation
  12. Health and hygiene
  13. Nutritional awareness
  14. Family planning and child care awareness
  15. Micro-finance initiatives
  16. Income Generation Projects (IGP)
  17. Women’s empowerment

Many of these groups establish kitchen herbal gardens and use herbal plants for medicine preparation after attending these workshops. As a result of receiving training in these groups, community members are beginning to utilise organic farming methods on their own land and to grow crops with success. Plantation of TDEF species in their villages and setting up indigenous nurseries as income-generating activities help to conserve the biodiversity of the region.

Pitchandikulam helps these groups to access government and micro-credit schemes which are of great benefit to SHGs and communities in general. Through careful monitoring and training, Pitchandikulam staff ensure that the internal administration of the groups is well maintained and any issues are quickly addressed. Women also participate in workshops on bookkeeping, leadership and team building. Frequent meetings and evaluation by staff help to sustain these groups.

A Women’s Centre has been recently constructed at Nadukuppam Field, which enables woman’s SHGs to meet independently in a safe, stimulating environment. It provides them with the opportunity to expand their horizons and interact with other women and sections of the community – as well as being a hub of information and knowledge. The Centre and its activities encourage women to implement sustainable practices in the village and farming community.

To see more information about our Rural Women’s Enterprises, please click here.

Ethnomedicinal Plants

Herbs in South India play a key role in people’s health. To understand herbs is to have a profound insight into the balanced ways of local culture. There are many traditional health systems used in India. They include Ayurveda, Sowa-Rigpa, Unani, Homeopathy, Yoga and Siddha, Tamil Nadu’s traditional primary health care. Siddha uses hundreds of indigenous plant species. Since 1993, Pitchandikulam Forest has been part of the national Medicinal Plant Conservation Network in 1993, co-ordinated by the Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions.

Our Mission
Pitchandikulam is dedicated to preserving and disseminating the wealth of traditional knowledge that exists in our region. For nearly 30 years, Pitchandikulam Forest has been actively involved in protecting indigenous herbal knowledge, creating  a living library in the form of indigenous herbal gardens, ethnomedicinal forest and medicinal plant sanctuaries. We document, research, preserve and disseminate knowledge about local plant-based medicinal systems.

Our five main areas of work:

This ethnomedicinal knowledge tends to passed on through women, so this forms a core part of our sustainable development work with women’s self-help groups. The tradition is supported by setting up herbal databases and publishing educational materials. The women then provide health services through herbal dispensaries, kitchen herbal gardens and herbal health camps, creating affordable community health-care and income.

In our Ethnomedicinal Forest:

  • Seed collections from local sanctuaries, remnant forests and sacred groves collected in collaboration with traditional healers
  • Rare, Endangered or Threatened (RET) species from the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest and other floristic zones of South India
  • Over fifty species of living hedges that form a protective, productive boundary and provide a fauna habitat and corridor
  • Stone signage show the different elements of the ecosystem and explain the medicinal uses of individual species and groups of plants for poisonous bites, bone fractures, headaches and other ailments
  • Open seated areas that provide space for medicinal herbal preparation workshops and other group activities, meetings and classes
  • Nursery with 180 TDEF species, with species that haven’t been propagated outside their natural forest environment before. Many germination methods have been explored to develop a series of standards to help others to successfully cultivate these plants elsewhere.

Our ethnomedicinal team experts
Parvathi Nagarajan is an expert in the identification and application of medicinal herbs according to the Siddha system of traditional medicine, and her family has been in involved in traditional herbal healing for at least five generations, and possibly many more. She has an MA in Sociology and an MA in Human Rights.

Dr. Bérengère Bérieau is our specialist in Ayurveda and seasonal health and well-being.

For more information about Parvathi’s story and background, please see her interview on our blog.

Click here for coming workshops