Life is a tough yet triumphant journey for people living in village Satoli in Uttrakhand. Earning a livelihood is something that does not come easily for the people of Uttrakhand, especially in a terrain which is difficult to survive, due to difficult weather conditions. The mountain bound people focus mainly on agriculture as their major source of income, where growing and selling fruits is the main source of income. During the harvest season the valley is full of fruits as the orchard belt shows off its fertility; laden with apricots, plums, peaches and pears. It is indeed a delightful sight; roads which appear as hair pin bends covered with trees, abounding with so many varieties of fruits. Experiencing the serenity and beauty of nature’s bounty, amidst harsh life conditions and rugged terrain makes this place feel like the Garden of Eden .
Seetla, a village near to Satoli, has many fruit orchards owned by local farmers. During the fruit season the farmers are usually busy plucking the ripe fruits, and packing it in wooden baskets to sell them off in the nearby fruit market, based in Haldwani. Growing fruits and then selling them to wholesale markets is a major source of income for the people who reside in the hills of Satoli. The people of Satoli who grow these fruits do it not just for commercial purpose, but are also very welcoming and offer it to random strangers passing their way. There are many varieties grown in the orchard belt of Uttrakhand; famous for its delicious plums out of which the – santroza variety is the tangiest. Chuskiya Nashpati, a small, half a finger sized juicy pear is a variety which is grown and available only in the hills of Satoli.
Alternative forms of earning a livelihood which Kumaoni people take up includes making a range of pure and natural products from Apricot fruit and its remains. Many local organizations buy the seeds of the apricot fruit from the farmer, whose produce does not get sold due to any reason, in the fruit market. In the livelihood units of these organizations, the workers extract the kernel and make products like apricot oil, soap and scrub. A large range of body care, culinary and fragrance products are also manufactured and distributed to local markets. These producers also tie up with distributors who distribute their products to markets in major cities of India, thereby making a bigger and wider consumer market for these products.
The Apricot, being a diminutive but versatile fruit, has many medicinal properties as well. Apricot oil is extracted from the kernels, which are hand-picked and crushed in a traditional cold press. This process preserves the chemical structure of the oil. Its light and absorbent properties make it a highly valued body and hair oil in aromatherapy. Apricot scrub is a non-soap, face and body-wash powder made from apricot kernels. It is available in pure powder form and can be mixed with water, rose water or milk. It works as a gentle skin exfoliating agent and moisturizer. Apricot scrub is hand pounded to preserve its natural properties and contains no additives. Geranium sachets are small fragrant bags made from geranium leaves and flowers, which make sweet additions for drawers and cupboards, lending their properties to pot pourri.
The natural products developed in the Kumaon region have only recently started gaining popularity, even though their value has always been known by the western world.
Through their innovation and efforts, the enterprising people of Kumaon have attracted a lot of business and tourism in the orchard belt of Uttrakhand.
By- Surbhi Bhalla