Shree Padre, executive editor of Adike Patrike, takes a ride with jackfruit
How farmer-journos made jackfruit a star in Kerala
Civil Society News, New Delhi
When the Kerala government recently declared jackfruit the state fruit, celebrations broke out in the small office of Adike Patrike, a Kannada monthly.
Published from Puttur, on the border between Kerala and Karnataka, Adike Patrike has for almost a decade advocated the nutritional benefits of jackfruit and the commercial possibilities from turning it into an array of products such as chips, jam and ready-to-cook pieces.
The announcement in Kerala is a happy vindication of the efforts made by the magazine, which consists of stories reported by farmers as they share their successes in their fields.
Jackfruit has had a lowly status among farm produce. It is not appealing to the eye and farmers would rather be seen holding a mango or a comb of bananas than a jackfruit. When it falls from trees and rots on the ground it stinks. Removing the skin of the jackfruit is messy because of the sticky milk that oozes from it.
But Adike Patrike, whose slogan is ‘pen in the hand of the farmer’, has gone all out to improve jackfruit’s image. It has provided some 400 pages of coverage through which it has shown that jackfruit is easy to grow and, in fact, enjoys a quiet popularity in rural homes. Available in plenty in the southern states, it is inexpensive and so can be relied on as food security.
The magazine has also looked at examples in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka where jackfruit is being processed and packaged. If these countries could value-add so can India.
In fact, rural families are already doing things like making chips from jackfruit and it is made into a curry and eaten in homes. The ripe jackfruit is also popular. In markets it is not uncommon for jackfruit to be cut and sold, ready to be cooked in small quantities. Such practices need to be better organised and scaled so that they go beyond being scattered across homesteads and farms.
Leading the spirited campaign to promote jackfruit was Adike Patrike’s executive editor, Shree Padre, a farmer himself who lives in the village of Padre in Kasaragod in Kerala, not too far from Puttur.
Srinivas Achar Manchi, publisher of Adike Patrike with Shree Padre, executive editor. Standing behind are Shiny, Sunitha, Na.Karanth Peraje and Sharada
As Padre saw it, jackfruit had inherent star qualities and wide appeal even though it got passed off as a humdrum vegetable. The response to Adike Patrike’s stories was proof of jackfruit’s popularity. People responded warmly with ideas and suggestions.
At Civil Society we saw some of this when Padre (who is a senior contributor to our magazine) wrote on jackfruit for us. He did three cover stories and innumerable smaller ones and each time we were awash with comments, recipes and assertions about the health benefits of eating jackfruit.
Official endorsement of jackfruit was long overdue and it has now come from the Kerala state government, which intends to not only encourage the growing of jackfruit but also provide incentives for creating products from it and position it as a driver of employment and rural prosperity.
Even before he became Kerala’s finance minister, Thomas Isaac was writing blogs and supporting efforts to plant jackfruit. Isaac has made a budgetary provision of Rs 5 crore for jackfruit development in Kerala.
Kerala’s decision will prompt other states to think of the opportunities they are missing out on. Jackfruit is grown and consumed across the country though it might not be quite as common everywhere as it is in the south.
10 YEARS OF STORIES
Adike Patrike has shown how a small publication can bring about big changes. It has taken 10 years of sincere and innovative coverage, but jackfruit has finally got a makeover.
“We published so many stories on jackfruit that people began saying Adike Patrike had become Halasu Patrike or ‘Jackfruit Magazine’,” says Padre.
There was interest in the coverage, but by and large people were not convinced that it would make a real difference to the status of jackfruit or seriously benefit the farming community.
The magazine was, however, having an impact slowly and imperceptibly. For instance, farmers began using better quality saplings of jackfruit. They also began taking to the agronomic practice of thinning by which extra tender fruits are cut off at an early stage to get better quality fruits. Jackfruit plant sales generally went up. Housewives experimented with recipes. People would ring up the magazine, asking for information, and the odd jackfruit festival began to be held.
Adike Patrike experienced what most publications cutting a new path do — readers can be impressed and influenced by coverage but do not necessarily respond readily. The enthusiasm of the Adike Patrike team didn’t seem to be rubbing off on readers. It took a while and as many as 31 cover stories for momentum to build.
The first cover story was in 2007. An advertisement in a local newspaper said that a Karnataka company was coming out with a jackfruit product. Adike Patrike got in touch with Gokul Fruits and even before visiting the factory it was decided to make it the cover story. Never before in Kerala and Karnataka had anyone made such a serious business investment in jackfruit.
“Salty jackfruit chips were not new to us. They were being made in tonnes in Karnataka and Kerala. But to produce vacuum fried chips from fruit like Gokul Fruits was planning, was an altogether different thing,” recalls Padre. “It had never happened before.”
RUN BY FARMERS
Adike Patrike is run by farmers. They report, edit, supervise production and also handle the distribution. Padre is executive editor and Na.Karanth Peraje is assistant editor. In addition to being farmers themselves, they have journalistic experience. Other farmers learn to report from the fields about successes and failures.
The magazine is dedicated to the farming community. It was started in 1988 by the All India Areca Growers Association, which made the initial investment and then it was handed over to the Farmer First Trust. It has become self-sustaining with revenue from sales and advertising.
“Each issue has a cover story. Though we are not a commercial magazine, we are professional and are on the stands promptly every month. Almost all our stories are exclusive and many are commissioned. Long ago we decided we wouldn’t be able to run the magazine on unsolicited articles. That’s why we identify the subjects, developments, emerging issues, solutions to farmers, problems, etc. and assign a journalist or our own trainee to write it. The behind-the-scenes effort in getting out our 48 pages every month is enormous. We provide need-based information. Readers are convinced that our information is reliable. Adike is no longer just a magazine. It has, over the years, become a friend of farming families,” explains Padre.
Adike Patrike literally means arecanut magazine. It was originally meant to serve the information needs of arecanut farmers. But over the years it has gone much beyond this captive role.
The magazine looks far and wide for ideas related to farming. It has done stories on fruits like avocado, kokum and passion fruit. It reports on farm techniques such as new ways of grafting the tomato plant. Water conservation has been an area of interest. From electronic fences to keep out wild boar to labour saving techniques and machines invented by farmers, the magazine captures useful information wherever it can find it.
It has picked up trends like jackfruit replacing rubber in Kerala and the use of banana stems in Gujarat. The magazine has gone all the way to Kashmir to take a look at saffron farming.
When a story idea is decided, either it is given as a freelance assignment to a journalist or a farmer-journalist is asked to collect the basic information. The story is then written up and played back to the farmer to avoid any errors.
The farmer-journalist gets the byline but a lot of effort goes into pulling the pieces of the story together so as to make it readable and credible.
The core editorial team consists of Padre and Peraje, who deal with farmer-journalists and freelancers and put each issue together. There are three non-editorial hands who look at office management, distribution and booking of advertisements. The publisher, Srinivas Achar Manchi, is an engineer-turned-farmer. An editorial board member, Padaru Ramakrishna Shastry, writes on machinery and scientific topics apart from providing farming tips.
A copy of Adike Patrike is priced at Rs 25 and an annual subscription is Rs 275. It is available online at www.adikepatrike.com. The digital version is very basic and an upgrade is in the works.
With committed readers in rural areas, the magazine attracts advertising from companies digging bore wells and manufacturers of dryers. Nurseries, pump set makers and cooperative banks also advertise. But since it is committed to non-chemical farming, the magazine gets no advertising from pesticide and fertiliser companies and willingly forgoes a lot of revenue.
Adike Patrike is unapologetic about being activist in its orientation. Padre argues that many of the magazine’s successes could not have been possible if it had stuck to the traditional norm that journalists have to be spectators and not players.
“Our experience from the campaigns we have carried out in the past — chemical-free farming, pen in the farmer’s hand, rainwater harvesting and so on have made this very clear to us. Only by coupling information dissemination with activism have we made inroads into people’s hearts. It is the approach we chose for jackfruit too,” explains Padre.
The magazine has put people in touch with each other. It has a database of hundreds of names of people associated with jackfruit cultivation, research and businesses. When a big seminar, Panasam 2009, was held it was to Adike Patrike that the organisers turned to get a list of people to invite.
Shree Padre taking pictures of jackfruit products at a jackfruit festival
Adike Patrike suggested that Dr Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth in Dapolin Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra hold a jackfruit festival in 2014. It provided the university with addresses and numbers of most of Maharashtra’s jackfruit activists.
“We took great joy in connecting the information seeker and the information provider. This strong networking and interlinking have helped the jackfruit movement grow faster,” says Padre.
Foreigners wanting to know about jackfruit in India often turn to the magazine. Padre also reaches out a lot. He has done at least 100 presentations in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra on jackfruit.
Two books have been brought out by the magazine — one in Kannada and the other in English. They were put together in just 10 days for a jackfruit festival in Wayanad in Kerala.
Adike Patrike has gone on study tours to broaden its understanding of what can be done to promote jackfruit cultivation and processing.
In Sri Lanka, it found that there were severe restrictions on cutting jackfruit trees in much the same way as sandalwood trees can’t be felled in India.
Sri Lanka has 14 organisations for providing training on jackfruit value addition. India does not have even one. Sri Lanka produces canned jackfruit curries, which are ready to heat and eat. It has a thriving cottage industry in pre-cut jackfruit.
Jackfruit pulp is an example of the advantages of reaching out. Agricultural scientists would tell Padre that jackfruit couldn’t be made into pulp in the same way as mango is made into pulp and packaged.
But in May 2012, he was tipped off that jackfruit pulp was being made in the Konkan region. Adike Patrike got in touch with Mohan Hodawdekar of the KoNiMSfurti initiative. After a brief interaction, he wouldn’t take Adike Patrike’s calls but the magazine didn’t give up. After it called him no less than 35 times, he finally decided to talk and agreed to show the magazine how jackfruit could be pulped. Today there are at least 10 companies in Kerala producing jackfruit pulp.
Cutting jackfruit is an onerous task but in Sri Lanka it has been perfected
A tour to Vidarbha had two objectives. The magazine wanted to see and document how jackfruit trees had come up on black cotton soil. It was believed that such soil was not suitable for jackfruit. Second, Padre wanted to study how Kerala’s abundant tender jackfruit supply is received and used there.
Jackfruit’s popularity has spread from Kerala and Karnataka to the world. Ken Love, a tropical fruit expert and great jackfruit lover in Hawaii, says: “It has taken the world by surprise. I never dreamed jackfruit would reach small cities of the US. Not only vegan or vegetarian specialty restaurants, it is showing up in mainstream restaurants and hotels too in America.”
Padre says, “At least half-a-dozen foreign youngsters have approached me with deep concern about how they can curb the unfortunate wastage of this food. Julian Fang, an Australian, worked in a restaurant to earn an air ticket to come to our country to explore this personally.”
Sri Lanka is undoubtedly the world leader in promoting jackfruit as a vegetable and creating opportunities through value-added products. But it is Indonesia which consumes the highest percentage of jackfruit as a vegetable.
In Vietnam, a company called Vinamit has 10,000 hectares of jackfruit and has contract farming arrangements. Vinamit makes vacuum-fried jackfruit chips and wanted to know from Adike Patrike how it could import jackfruit from India.
Vinamit, a company in Vietnam, manufactures large quantities of vacuum-fried jackfruit chips
In India the most processing is done in Kerala but it is mostly by small and home-based units. The products are invariably sold during festivals because small producers don’t have the wherewithal to enter organised markets or directly reach customers.
The odd company is worth watching such as Artocarpus Foods in Kannur. It is run by Subhash Koroth and is a fully committed jackfruit enterprise into exports and local sales. It has been appointing distributors to build its sales.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac & Agriculture Minister V. S. Sunil Kumar inaugurate a jackfruit truck
There are innovative products such as jackfruit modak, which is produced by Sindhusfurti, a unit in Kudal, Maharashtra. They buy soft-fleshed jackfruit from farmers for Rs 5 per kg, convert it into pulp and use it for making modak. Their Fanas Modak is attractively packed and sold in hypermarkets in Pune and Mumbai. Soft-fleshed jackfruit is mostly wasted but they have put it to good use.
Stories in Adike Patrike have been an inspirational influence on its readers. Shivanna of Parivarthan makes several jackfruit products including Jaffee or jackfruit coffee. Fruits Pride, another value-addition group, makes jackfruit pulp. There are others like Shripad Hegde and Vijayakumar Koppa who have been making value-added products. For them, Adike Patrike is their monthly quota of inspiration and new ideas.
About 50 households in Adyanadka began supplying jackfruit for making ice-cream for one year. They sold 27 tonnes, earning about Rs 1.5 lakh. For decades they had done nothing with their jackfruit trees. Not one household in the past had earned even a rupee from jackfruit.
Thanks to Adike Patrike, several farmers who had never thought it worthwhile to grow jackfruit have now planted 10 to 15 trees each on one or two acres. They are planning to market jackfruit. Gabriel S. Veigas, an ex-forest officer and a reader, informed the magazine that he had planted 300 jackfruit trees and expected a good crop of jackfruit in the next two years. He will then organise a jackfruit festival.
Adike Patrike can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org/8073140917