1. Success Story

Know How This Retired Botany Professor Motivates Rural Women Grow the ‘Green Superfood - Spirulina’

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo
Pic Credit - Better India

Spirulina is truly a superfood that loves only 30 degrees. Affirming this important piece of information to students, a retired professor from the University of Rajasthan, Pushpa Srivastav recalls her Botany lecture that she gave in the year 1999. The noted professor began her class with this statement to explain the benefits of Spirulina - an organism that grows in fresh as well as saltwater.

Today, after 20 years, Srivastav’s love and affection for this green superfood is the same as years before.  And interestingly she talks with the same zeal as she did in that lecture two decades ago. The simplified technology proposed by her was a master-stroke in the world of health and also a ray of hope for the uneducated women in rural regions.

The department gave her Rs 42 Lakh to grow the green superfood on 400 sq mts of land in a small village of Rajasthan and this is how the professor’s long tryst with Spirulina started.

Underlining the benefits of spirulina, Prof. Srivastav claimed that it can alleviate the symptoms of life threatening diseases such as cancer and HIV. She said, “Besides, it is also a great medicine for arthritis anemia, diabetes, hyperglycemia and malnourishment”.

Srivastav had collaborated with the city health experts and almost 400 patients were examined after spirulina was added to their diet. She claims that the results were pleasing as there were no toxic or side effects. 

Spirulina can be easily cultivated in summer as it needs sunlight and rainy season can hinder the production. The alga must be grown in a pond with iron devices. After 3 to 4 days, it has to be filtered, cleaned and dried into flakes & grounded into powder. As spirunal is sensitive, the bacteria development is too high. Therefore, the production has to be far away from the seashore.

She started the project in Rajasthan’s Burthal village that went on for around 4 years. But, the botany professor had a desire to take her knowledge of the non-flowering plant further on and help the women benefit from it. So, she established Manjul Spirulina Samwardhan Sansthan or centre and brought in women from the village to continue the activities.

In 2001, Srivastav launched a similar venture in Gujarat with the help from the State government and incorporated as many as 90 women to cultivate 30 kilos of spirulina per week. She said, “The project took almost 6 years to turn into an organised business. I handed over the complete production to the honest & hardworking women.”

At present, around 15 women from Burthal are cultivating 20 kilos of spirulina on 400 sq mts of land provided by the village. Every day they work for hours & earn around 1,000 to 3,000.

Although Srivastav stays in Jaipur, she travels 35 kilometres two times a week to watch over the production. She also financially assists her employees whenever they are in need.

Right from persuading the village Panchayat to let women work, creating her own group to take the project ahead and to dealing with the financial payment on the production, Prof Srivastav has come a long way since she began in the early 1999. She faced many problems but her passion for the green superfood helped her continue the job.

Source - Better India

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