Utkal Alumina shows lemon grass farming can be a rewarding affair


Bhubaneswar: Aditya Birla Group Company, Utkal Alumina has always been at the forefront of enriching the livelihoodsof the people in villages close to its Plant. Very recently, it has been actively engaged in the promotion of lemon grass cultivation in Andirakanch village.
Our basic objective is “to provide an alternative and attractive source of income to the local farmers by extracting oil from cultivated lemon grass. We want to popularise this non-traditional cash crop to improve their socio-economic status”, says Mr Nagesh, the Unit Head of Utkal Alumina International Ltd (UAIL).
Lemon grass is a tropical herb with a strong citrus flavour. The oil extracted from it through distillation of leaves has a high commercial value, adds Mr Nagesh.
Lemon grass farming spans 20 acres and 12 farmers of Andirakanch are the cultivators. In the initial phase, the farmers were offered a crash course by Utkal Alumina on future prospects of this crop as well as cultivation practices. They were taken on an exposure visit to the lemon grass field of Bandhugaon of Narayanpatna block in Koraput district, which is famous for this crop cultivation.
Being new to the crop, it was decided that the engaging farmers take up this activity on an experimental basis. They had to be given a thorough exposure. As part of the demonstration, support for lemon grass slips, fertiliser and pesticides, agriculture tools, irrigation facility, boundary materials among others, were provided by Utkal. The management was sure that as soon as the farmers would begin reaping dividends, the activitycould be scaled.
Additionally, the technical experts did much of the hand-holding. Furthermore, the CSR officials, and village supervisors worked with the farmers during ploughing, transplanting, weeding, use of fertiliser and pesticides. The Odisha Agro Industries Corporation was roped in for setting up of micro lift irrigation infrastructure under the scheme Jalanidhi-II.
The best part is the farmers have already harvested the first crop and extracted oil. Now, it is being planned to set up a lemon grass oil extraction unit in the locality. A plan to expand the farming of the crop to another 100 acres this year is on the anvil.
Hopefully, these endeavours will give a lift to the income ofthe farmers and a better quality of life.