Trinity Saioo, who won the 2021 Padma Shri award for helping more farmers in Meghalaya take up the cultivation of Lakadong turmeric, now plans to promote the north-eastern State’s unique “Makhir” ginger. 

“Makhir ginger has a unique pungency and medicinal properties. So, we are looking to promote its cultivation in our State,” said Saioo, who made the Meghalaya turmeic famous through her tireless work.

Sustaining environment

Meghalaya has two types of ginger that are popular. While “Makhir” is one, the other is “Nadia”. 

The ginger is small in size but it provides immense health benefits, the Padma Shri winner told businessline on the sidelines of Global Turmeric Conference in Mumbai.  

“We will try to encourage the turmeric’s cultivation in the new Eastern West Khasi Hills district. It will help people to shift from rat-hole mining and lead to a sustainable environment,” said Saioo, who hails from Mulieh village in West Jaintia Hills district. 

The Padma Shri award winner, popularly known as “Turmeric Trinity”, got into organic turmeric cultivation two decades ago since her parents were farm-hands engaged in the spices cultivation.

Unique turmeric

Looking at her work, the Spices Board sought her help to bring more farmers to grow the turmeric, which has medicinal properties, particularly high antioxidant levels. This is due to a higher curcumin level of 8 per cent against the normal 3 per cent in other turmeric varieties. 

Saioo was roped in to get in touch with illiterate farmers, mainly women, and help them get subsidies to grow Lakadong turmeric. What helped her was that she was already heading a self-help group, which was part of an International Fund for Agricultural Development project.

Beginning with 10 farmers in 2003, she has helped nearly 1,000 farmers to grow organic Lakadong turmeric till now. Some 100 self-help groups have been created across 36 villages.

A teacher in lower primary school, Saioo, who has six children, spent time after school and on Saturdays to visit nearby villages. “I helped many to fill up the farms for subsidy. Many came to my home,” she said.

Her moment

Saioo’s moments probably came when Lakadong turmeric was brought under “One District One Product” scheme in West Jaintia Hills district. 

She has not stopped with just encouraging farmers to grow Lakadong turmeric. She has helped the business grow through the local Mahila Kisan Sangh, set up in 2018. Earlier, the turmeric was sold locally but her efforts have resulted in the spice being sold across the country now.

The women’s group processes Lakadong turmeric, grades and sorts the spice to ensure it is not mixed with other varieties. Today, her group handles at least 50,000 tonnes of Lakadong turmeric.

Saioo is not sure who recommended her for the Padma Shri Award though she feels the district collector has a role. The award, she says, has only inspired her to “feel that responsibility is more”.

Saioo’s husband cultivates paddy and she helps him. Of her six children, the youngest is in class IX. Among the other five, barring a son, the rest all have graduated.