Self-Employment Program for Women to Popularize Use of Nutritious Herbal Food and Beverages in the Society

World Health Organization (WHO) has defined medicinal plants as plants that contain properties or compounds that can be use for therapeutic purposes or those that synthesize metabolites to produce useful drugs (WHO 2008). Medicinal plants constitute an important component of flora and are widely distributed in Sri Lanka. Medicinal plants are also rich sources of nutrients. Most of the medicinal plants are used to prepare medicine as well as food and beverages alike. Rather than using common herbal plants for the sole purpose of medicine, both attributes of nutrition and medicine can be addressed mutually. Hence it is very important to create interest to produce food items using nutritious underutilized herbal plants for household consumption to enhance household nutritional status and also fulfilling national requirements.

To overcome issues related to the lack of awareness on underutilized herbal plants and possible food & beverage recipes, preparation methods need to be re-introduced emphasizing on productivity-enhancing technology that may require modification to some of the traditional methods employed to prepare herbal food and beverages. However, new food processing technology is scarcely available to rural women. It is essential to provide training on using novel techniques, creating products of higher standards using herbal raw materials and engender market opportunities through establishing new channels and dissemination through existing marketing channels; creating entrepreneurial women stimulating their inborn talents while guiding them to be self-reliant.

Women play an important role in almost all activities of the household. They play a very important role in the management of daily food consumption considering the nutrient requirement of the family. However, the nutritional efficiency of resources within the household also depends on income control, time allocation, intra household food distribution, and abilities & skills of those who provide nutrition-enhancing services.
One way of increasing women's economic influence within the household is through increasing their participation in income generating activities. Creating and strengthening women's groups, particularly those at the local level, is important not only because these organizations help to preserve women's interests but also contribute in making women's work productive contributing to income generation. Thus, the Department of Ayurveda along with the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project has under-taken the project on “Self-Employment Program for Women to Popularize Use of Nutritious Herbal Food and Beverages in the Society” to improve women’s livelihood status in collaboration with promoting herbal based food and beverages contributing to household food security.

In-light of raising awareness of the importance and urgency of improving herbal based foods production for better nutrition and extra income, the Department of Ayurveda has conducted several awareness programs for selection of beneficiaries and production of information material. Conducting training workshops (practical) on herbal food & beverage preparation for women at the project pilot sites including areas of Gampola Pahala Giribawa, Wannikudawewa and Ududumbura (Udukumbura & Padupola) was successfully carried out. Involvement of resource persons from well-established women societies including the “Women Development Foundation Badulla” has strengthened implementation of the project. Distribution of simple cooking accessories for 30 women was initiated taking into consideration women with major financial restrictions.

Awareness programe to select beneficiaries (Gampola Pahala Giribawa)

Video filming of herbal food preparation by memebers of the Women Development Foundation Badulla
Training on herbal food preparation (Gampola Pahala Giribawa)
Awareness programe to select beneficiaries (Ududumbara)
Awareness on preparation of Herbal food & beverages – showing video film demonstration. (Ududumbara)
Training on herbal food preparation (Ududumbara)
Training on herbal food preparation (Ududumbara)
Some of the dishes prepared by the women group (Ududumbara)
Awareness on preparation of Herbal food & beverages – showing video film demonstration. (Ududumbara)
Dish of Polos (immature jackfruit) sausages
Cereal Rice