| Farmers work on a citronella plantation |
Oct. 16: Citronella, an aromatic plant whose oil is used extensively in the soap and perfumery industry, may become the staple crop in large tracts of Hojai if a World Bank-funded agriculture experiment proves viable.
Six joint forest management committees, comprising impoverished farmers living on the fringes of reserve forests in Hojai, have struck deals with two perfumery companies to supply them with citronella extracts.
The project will serve the dual purpose of providing a source of livelihood to farmers while ensuring sound natural resource management.
Nearly 28 lakh citronella saplings have been planted on 132 hectares of reserve forest area in Hojai in the past three months under the Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project funded by the World Bank.
“The forest management committees have jointly signed an agreement with two organisations — Aroma India Pvt Ltd of Guwahati and Florachem Pvt Ltd of Golaghat.
“According to the deal, saplings and related support will be provided to the committees by the companies and the farmers will sell will their produce to them,” a forest department source said.
The forest management committees of Lankajan, Nokhuti, Akashiganga, Kothiatoli, Nahargaon and Christanbasti are part of the agreement.
Aroma India will install their oil extraction machines at the project site and train the forest management committee members to run them. It will buy citronella oil for Rs 440 a litre.
Florachem, on the other hand, will buy green leaf for Rs 220 a quintal.
“Farmers can expect at least 220 quintals of green citronella leaf per year from one hectare,” said Florachem Pvt Ltd proprietor Sunil Jalan.
Hojai divisional forest officer, P. Shivkumar, said citronella is a supplementary plantation and the main objective is to ensure immediate monetary returns to the forest management committees.
The plantation will not interfere with the cultivation of principal trees like teak, he added.
“Our target is to maximize utilisation of space. It will also give the poor farmers a means of regular livelihood,” Shivkumar said.