Native Fruit Trees: Of life and livelihoods…

Native fruit trees LIFE

Mrs Rajeshwari and Mr Parameshwar are farming couple living in the village of Gonsar, located in the midst of lush evergreen forests, in the central Western Ghats of South India. Since the whole region is forested, local people are very much dependent on the various forest resources, especially trees, and have been trying to domesticate these in their farms, orchards and other forms of land types.

Parameshwar and Rajeshwari, who participated in the research, are one of many local families that have been trying to conserve several tree species and varieties on their farms for the last fifty years or so, by domesticating and cultivating them. Garcinia spp, Cinnamomum spp, Syzigium spp, Myristica spp, Mangifera indica and Artocarpus spp are a few to mention.

As Rajeshwari explains, “Our work is to look for the different varieties of mango grown in our orchard or in the wild and to pick those up during the fruiting season for making various recipes, to be eaten together with the main staple food: rice. These mango trees grow wild or are cultivated, but they are all local varieties, both sweet varieties and sour ones, which we use for making Tambli, Chutney, Gojju, Appehuli, Saasime, etc. We collect the young and immature fruits of mango that have a special aroma and that are of good keeping quality, and we preserve them for years to prepare the pickle. We use these varieties for table purposes or in making of ‘Rasayana’ a sweet dish with mango fruit along with Jaggery, coconut, salt and other ingredients.”

Like their fellow villagers, Parameshwar and Rajeshwari also use the fruit rind of Garcinia indica to prepare a soft drink and as a souring agent in preparing various recipes. Butter extracted from the seed is locally used as edible oil and has several medicinal properties. Fruit rind of Garcinia gummigutta is collected mainly for commercial sale, whereas the butter extracted from the seeds is used for frying sweet dishes or consumed with some dishes. Jack fruit and mango are additionally important fruit trees used for making recipes and several dishes.

Parameshwar, Rajeshwari and their family have more than one hundred species of native forest trees in their orchards and farms that have been domesticated over the years. These include 200 trees of Garcinia indica and 30 trees of Garcinia gummigutta, more than 500 trees of jack fruit and 600 mango trees. They have conserved four species of Garcinia and at least 55 varieties of mango (Mangifera indica). Ten varieties of mango are of locally important and threatened varieties. Along with other family members, Parameshwar and Rajeshwari are maintaining many native fruit trees even though they are not commercially important and do not give cash returns. Besides, they are promoting the conservation of many of these varieties by providing scions freely and grafting them free of cost to the trees of their neighbours, villagers and adjacent villagers. In fact, identifying elite varieties of mango and other species, conserving them through grafting and other techniques in nurseries, sharing or exchanging these plant materials with other farmers are all regular activities for these farmers.

Women’s and men’s roles in this process are well defined and complementary. As Rajeshwari states, “Men assist us in collecting the fruits at the stage of mature or immature fruiting. However, processing, preserving, making of the recipes, serving them to the family and relatives, friends or even during special occasions is done entirely by me and other female members of our family”. Regarding the propagation and cultivation aspects of the mango tree, she says, “we (women) do not have much role to play in raising of the plants, purchasing mango plants or cultivating them. What we do is assist men in watering, sometimes weeding, and driving away the monkeys that come to eat the mango fruits when men are engaged in other agriculture activities in different locations. Unlike our husbands, we do not help other farmers graft special varieties of mango; however we do exchange the fruits with other women from neighbouring households in the village.”

Research undertaken in Gonsar, Kalgadde-Kanchigadde and Salkani villages of the Central Western Ghats in India brought to light the gender-specific knowledge, skills, management and conservation practices related to NFTs. A combination of participatory methods such as resource mapping and activity calendars revealed women’s exclusive knowledge of NFTs for domestic use and home gardening that is illustrated above, as well as men’s knowledge of NFT silviculture. Using innovative tools that promote collective learning, such as four cell analysis, women and men brought forth their knowledge about the current status of various NFTs, many of which are threatened species and varieties, and all of which need to be managed in a sustainable way both in the forest and on cultivated lands. The research activities highlighted the pressing need to conserve the 25 fruit tree species and several varieties of wild mango present in the study area, and demonstrated that traditional gendered knowledge of these species is essential for achieving this. Value addition and marketing of some of these species, based on women’s traditional fruit processing knowledge, are being supported to provide livelihood benefits and additional incentives for conservation.

Empowering women as experts of tropical fruit diversity, is a program by Bioversity International Gender Research Fellowship Program, funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Photo: Local women involved in the participatory research on Tropical Fruit Trees

Blogpost by Narasimha Hegde, Gender Fellow, LIFE Trust (Sirsi, India) – lifetrusts(at)
Photo by Srinivas


This post is entry nr #34 in our #WCA2014 blog competition. The five blogposts with the most and highest votes will receive a signed copy of the book "Trees for Life". The most popular blogpost will get an iPad.


This blogpost received 91 votes, with an average score of 5 (out of a max of 5).

If you have questions or remarks on the project described in this post, please leave a comment below. Please also rate the other blogcompetition entries!

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33 People have left comments on this post

» Dr.K.D.Pandey said: { Jan 30, 2014 - 07:01:32 }

The blog story is very interesting . It describes the traditional knowledge of forest people and their livelihood / conservation of resources.

» Narasimha Hegde said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 04:01:14 }

Thanks Dr K.D. Pandey. We tried to work based on these traditional ecological knowledge on a participatory basis, we see the promising results, though the scale is limited.

» Ramesh Hegde said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 09:01:07 }

Good work @ grass root level with appropriate methods&people participation. Great job

» Ramesh Hegde said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 09:01:18 }

Good work at grass root level with people participation with appropriate method.

» M.K.Hegde said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 02:01:28 }


» ramesh hegde said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 03:01:32 }

This is great work, providing excellent information on the indigenous knowledge and the lively hood of the forest dependents. The narration shows that the method used to assess/study the situation is also excellent.

» Anoop Singh said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 04:01:14 }

Great work. I really appreciate your dedication.

» Santosh said: { Jan 31, 2014 - 05:01:08 }

Good work at grass root level

» Narasimha Hegde said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 05:02:19 }

Thank you all, for appreciating the work.

» Manjunath said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 06:02:09 }

Good job idial fr others

» Shikant Gunaga said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 02:02:06 }

This is a nice exercise to document the indigenous knowledge on the conservation of indigenous useful plant varieties. Since the central Western Ghats are the hotspot for several endemic wild edible plants which has immense nutritional value. Documenting the traditional method of conservation practice as well as the harvesting practice is very important and even women participation in such activities very crucial for the conservation of our precious natural resources.

» Shikant Gunaga said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 02:02:17 }

This is a nice exercise to document the indigenous knowledge on the conservation of indigenous useful plant varieties. Since the central Western Ghats are the hotspot for several endemic wild edible plants which has immense nutritional value. Documenting the traditional method of conservation practice as well as the harvesting practice is very important and even women participation in such activities are very crucial for the conservation of our precious natural resources.

» Maria Fernandez said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 02:02:46 }

This blog is especially interesting as it highlights the different technical knowledge that men and women have and use in a complementary fashion to manage genetic resources and improve the quality of food. It tells a new kind of story about the agency of rural people in the management of natural resources.

» Nagabhooshan.M.hegde said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 02:02:06 }

Good Work

» Nagabhooshan.M.hegde said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 03:02:26 }

Good job idial fr others

» Sridhar K.B said: { Feb 1, 2014 - 04:02:03 }

This is the real extension, and has to be

» satish yellapur said: { Feb 3, 2014 - 04:02:38 }

Good job. Because it’s really a part of conservation of indigenous crops.

» Kiran Mallapur said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 05:02:21 }

This blog illustrates what we have always known-the importance of traditional knowledge and the input of local communities in tending their own backyards, in this case the forests of the Western Ghats. It also illustrates the critical role of under funded and under appreciated small local NGOs like the LIFE Trust in bio-cultural conservation and livelihood development work which may prove to be a critically important contribution to on-going conservation work to save this biodiversity hotspot- the Western Ghats..

» nagaraj said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 07:02:08 }


» Santosh Hegde said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 08:02:55 }

Nice work. I hope this kind of participation will spread across the region on a larger scale. Great initiative though.

» Vivek said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 08:02:07 }

good Worrk

» Dr. R.P. Dwivedi, India said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 09:02:30 }

This the real extension. ITKs are very important for the solution of modern problems. Well done

» stefano padulosi said: { Feb 5, 2014 - 10:02:53 }

I would like to congratulate the author of this post and all the people who are involved in the implementation of this very interesting project aimed at valorizing indigenous genetic resources and the unique culture associated to them.

» Narasimha Hegde said: { Feb 6, 2014 - 06:02:30 }

Dear all, thanks lot for your valuable comments and appreciating the blog and the work as well.

» vattam Adithya said: { Feb 6, 2014 - 07:02:21 }

Hats off to you sir. Everyone wants to save just tigers, elephants and more. You are doing the right thing saving the ever green forests that too saving the unique tree species found no where else on the planet. I still need to keep up with my promise made to you. Will come and finalize sir

» Raghavendra.H.V. NCBS said: { Feb 6, 2014 - 11:02:21 }

The great work, providing excellent information of the forest dependents.
The method used to study the situation is also excellent.

» Prasanna Hegde said: { Feb 6, 2014 - 04:02:35 }

.good one..keep going narasimhanna..

» Jayaprakasam V said: { Feb 7, 2014 - 06:02:54 }

Fantastic work Mr.Hegda

» Keshava H. Korse said: { Feb 7, 2014 - 09:02:43 }

Success in natural resources conservation seem to be heavily dependent on how really we get engaged with the communities in the the field and what difference is brought about in the quality of their life. I am happy to see that this participatory project is in that right direction. Wish the progarm all the best.

» Angesom Ghebremeskel Teklu said: { Feb 7, 2014 - 12:02:36 }

This is interesting!

» Ganesan RP said: { Feb 11, 2014 - 11:02:48 }

Preserving native plants and study the benefits for various purpose is important. With Present technologies, sharing and promoting is easy.

keep going

Would like to have farm address & contact details to

» Sandhya Hegde said: { Feb 21, 2014 - 02:02:05 }

grass root level work, really appreciable.

» Sandhya Hegde said: { Feb 21, 2014 - 02:02:36 }

with innocent tribal people, its a different experience

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