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Sweet and sour pickles: A challenge for women entrepreneurs

Sweet and sour pickles: A challenge for women entrepreneurs

HYDERABAD: Mahrun-nisa, a community group leader in Matiari district, has launched a small-scale pickle manufacturing unit at her home where she prepares different types of pickles, both sweet and sour to attract buyers in her neighbourhood to earn a little amount.

“We buy green mangos from the local markets at cheap rates early in the season to use for pickle-making. It needs a bit of spices to maintain its taste and aroma,” she described the process.

Mahrun-nisa has attended different trainings conducted by various government departments and social development sector organisations in the area along with a larger group of women to develop entrepreneurship skills.

Those trainings aimed to improve their lifestyle and to enable them to live comfortably through income generation. These skill trainings were the motivating factors behind her initiative to start her home-based work to earn some cash.

Women collect green mangoes in villages for making different types of pickles for their own consumption. It is a common practice. However, a few have adapted to produce these pickles on a commercial level to augment their family income.

In summer, it is often a way to get together for women. They work in groups to slice the green mangoes, mix spices, and prepare to mix ingredients in a clay jar. The clay jars are the preferable utensils to process the pickles.

Shazia, another woman in the group, quoting community women pickle manufactures described that sweet mango varieties were not suitable for pickle manufacturing. They prefer to have sour green mango varieties to maintain its taste and quality for consumers.

Due to declining old and indigenous mango varieties, they face problems in preparing the right-taste pickles.

Mango farming provides seasonal job opportunities for a large number of people in the province, mainly engaged in growing orchards, picking, packing, processing and transportation at local level.

The community women at village level have specific contribution of value-addition.

They, besides manufacturing mango pickles, also produce powder and preserve raw slices through drying and boiling for their own consumption and for sale. The powder and preserved product is used in vegetable cooking to maintain its taste throughout the year.

But the pickle once produced at the local level can be used for one or two months, depending on the weather. No chemical preservatives are used to prepare pickles as women are already aware of its effects on health.

Reports gathered from researchers reveal that Sindh, despite having around 250 mango fruit varieties, is experiencing loss of valuable orchards due to various reasons, mainly weather variations, persistent water scarcity, delayed rainfall and poor field practices. These reasons have together degraded fertile lands, compelling producers to clean mango orchards and put in place some other crops.

Growers do not look into the impact clearing mango orchards has on these home-based women pickle makers. They think instead of sticking to old varieties, the women should begin using the new mango varieties to prepare pickles as per market demand and requirements.

Dad Muhammad Baloch, director mango at Sindh Horticulture Research Institute Mirpurkhas, was optimistic about promoting indigenous varieties and introducing others through research to help producers for the sake of strengthening the national economy.

He said the institute has 250 varieties of mango at its farm, of which only 50 varieties were commonly cultivated in the province.

“In fact, weather variations always affect the productivity of this lovely fruit. This year too, cold winds in the month of December and hot weather later hit the mango orchards hard during its flowering season, which caused low productivity, leaving producers and contractors to face losses,” he informed.

Baloch has expertise about many fruits and crops and described the process from establishing nurseries to transplanting the same in the fields. About the current year, he said Sindh has experienced 30 percent loss in productivity of mango due to ups and downs in the weather.

He observed that due to increasing degradation of lands with salinity many growers clean their ancestral mango orchards and replace the trees with other cash crops, depending on productivity and value.

Reports show that the trend of cleaning mango orchards has caused loss of many indigenous varieties in the mango producing districts, including Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar, Hyderabad, Matiari and parts of Sanghar and Naushehro Feroz.

There are 15 indigenous commercial mango varieties, including Sindhri, Saroli, Dasehri, Almas, Langra, Chaunsa, Anwar Ratol, Sunera, Bengal Pali, Lal Badshah, Neelam and Desi, which attract consumers of all ages. Among these varieties Sindhri is the most favourite.

The director said they do not have exact data about mango gardens standing in the province. But, he realised that valuable mango orchards were being cleaned in some areas due to the above mentioned reasons.

Presently, new high density mango varieties are being developed in the province on a small scale, in which growers plant 302 trees/acre and get product round the year. Normally, growers plant mango tree at a distance of 8-10 feet, which may need around 35-40 trees/acre. Each tree averagely produces 8-10 maunds, depending on varieties. The product in case of high density cultivation is low compared to traditional varieties.

In Sindh there are two seasons to sow fruits, vegetables and crops – February to March and July to August.

Farmers in the province do not produce organic fruits without use of chemical input. Horticulture research institute officials said pesticides – sometimes even unregistered and banned brands – have destroyed biodiversity and impacted human health, productivity and soil fertility.

“We are motivating mango farmers to introduce alternative pesticides produced from neem to avoid further loss of biodiversity,” Baloch added.

With increasing economic pressure in rural areas, it is now necessary that the government takes immediate steps to encourage better orchard management, as well as participation of women in integrated farming practices.

They should also be motivated to adopt integrated farm management in which they may establish small scale fish farms with livestock in their courtyards so they may live a sustainable life. For this, women entrepreneurs need financial support, which can be achieved by introducing tailored microfinance schemes.

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