Leh berries to dot Himalayan deserts by 2020

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  1. arnabmit

    arnabmit Homo Communis Indus Senior Member

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    Leh berries to dot Himalayan deserts by 2020

    The cold deserts of the Himalayas could soon be dotted with the bright red berries of the seabuckthorn plant, popularly known as Leh berries.

    The Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Defence Research and Development Organisation have launched a major national initiative for seabuckthorn cultivation in the high-altitude, cold desert ecosystems.

    The aim is to bring a million hectares under cultivation by 2020, with an initial funding of Rs.25 crore in 2011 for preparatory work and a pilot programme in five districts, according to the Leh Declaration. It was adopted on Wednesday at the conclusion of a workshop for stakeholders, organised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research.

    India currently has only 11,500 hectares under seabuckthorn cultivation, an area that is far outstripped by other countries where the plant is indigenous. China has 1.1 million hectares, Russia 47,000 hectares, and Mongolia 30,000 hectares.

    The new initiative could have a significant effect in all the Himalayan States, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, where the cold deserts comprise 40 per cent of land area, said Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

    The Territorial Army and women's self-help groups will be roped in for the project, which is expected to secure community livelihoods, and also to ensure conservation of the fragile high-altitude ecosystems.

    Seabuckthorn, also called the “Wonder plant” and “Ladakh gold” has multi-purpose medicinal and nutritional properties, and also helps in soil conservation and nitrogen fixation.

    MEDICINAL USES

    Long considered a humble shrub of the Himalayas, every part of the plant – fruit, leaf, twig, root and thorn – has been traditionally used for medicine, nutritional supplements, fuel and fencing.

    Hardy, drought-resistant and tolerant to extreme temperatures from – 43º C to + 40º C, the plant has an extensive root system which can fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it ideal for controlling soil erosion and preventing desertification.

    The initiative is expected to be included in the Sub-Mission on Cold Desert Ecosystems to be established under the Green India Mission — which is a part of the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
     
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  3. arnabmit

    arnabmit Homo Communis Indus Senior Member

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    Older related news...

    Defence lab squeezes crores out of Leh berry

    LEH: Tucked away from public gaze in the high altitudes of Ladakh, a defence laboratory is quietly proving that all government research isn't aimed at increasing the size of files.

    The Defence Research and Development Organisation's Field Research Laboratory here has squeezed a Rs 5-6 crore business out of seabuckthorn, a berry that grows wild in the high valleys of the Ladakh region.

    Sold under the 'Leh Berry' brand, the juice has notched up annual sales of over Rs 5-6 crore. At present it is marketed by Ladakh Foods Ltd in joint venture with agriculture ministry's Small Farmers Agri Business Consortium and Nafed.

    "China has a Rs 17,000-crore seabuckthorn market. Russia, Finland and Canada are the other major markets. We are now utilising 10 per cent of our potetial," says Sanjai K Dwivedi, who along with O P Chaurasia developed the technology to extract and preserve the juice.

    Dwivedi said that Dabur, Kohinoor and Arctic Deserts were among the major food processing firms seeking the technology patented in 2001.

    Locally known as 'Tsermang', the FRL started research on the berry in 1992 in search for a tasty health drink that doesn't freeze in the sub-zero temperatures of Siachen or Drass-Kargil areas.

    Locals have been aware of the medicinal properties of seabuckthorn and using its berries, leaves and roots for food, fodder and firewood.

    Genghis Khan used it to improve the memory, stamina, strength, fitness and disease-fighting abilities of his army. Soviet Cosmonauts on board the Mir space station used seabuckthorn cream to counter radiation. It is also known as the king of vitamin C.

    But the juice could not be stored more than a day, limiting commercial viability. The FRL technology has enabled the juice to be transported from Leh to the Godrej Foods Division plant in Raisen, Madhya Pradesh, for packaging.

    It also doesn't freeze in minus 20 degrees centigrade, making it a favourite with the troops.

    Dwivedi said that the berry grew in about 11,000 hectares in the Nubra, Indus, Suru and Zanskar valleys of Ladakh. It is also found in parts of Uttaranchal and Sikkim.

    Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council officials see the FRL technology as a financial boon for the local population. The council now wants to run the cultivation and harvesting operations in the co-operative sector.
     
  4. arnabmit

    arnabmit Homo Communis Indus Senior Member

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