Karnataka is the largest producer of areca nuts in India. The areca nut contributes to about 8% of India’s agricultural income, and Karnataka boasts of more than two-thirds of the country’s areca nut production. In Karnataka, areca nuts are grown across 2,68,813 hectares with an annual production volume of 4,25,853 metric tons.
Many families are dependent on this crop for their livelihood.
Over the past few years, the areca nut community has faced a backlash from a few policies made by the central government.
Vijay Karnataka, the largest read Kannada daily, initiated a campaign to become the voice of the areca farmers, a thriving community facing a lot of problems in recent times. The areca nut growers are an affluent community. They form their respective co-operative societies and manage their trade. With Vijay Karnataka’s support, the leaders of the community were keen to join.
The objectives of the campaign were to:
- Counter the idea that the areca nut is bad for health and a cause of cancer, which has resulted in lower demand. Remove the chances of prohibition on production of areca nuts.
- Ban the import of low-quality areca nuts from Southeast Asian markets, which has reduced demand for good quality products grown in Karnataka.
- Develop proper matrices for measurement of quality standards. Create a research and development centre in the largest producing area.
- Establish a standard pricing strategy to avoid fluctuating prices.
By creating a campaign across the primary producing areas, we wanted to mobilise all the areca nut growers together and create a whitepaper to carry their voice to the decision makers.
The campaign included seminars, articles, a digital campaign, and submission of a whitepaper to the chief minister of Karnataka.
Vijay Karnataka started publishing articles about the difficulties faced by the areca nut farmers. The campaign was launched in Shivamogga, the district with the highest number of areca nut farmers. The leaders from the grower’s community joined hands with the publication in crafting the objectives of the campaign.
Six seminars were conducted in areas where areca nuts are grown with the support of the regional co-operative societies and local sponsors. They were attended by more than 3,000 farmers and decision makers. Each of the seminars had a full house of attendance with an average of 600 members in each seminar.
One of the key highlights was a seminar held in Channagiri, a town known as the areca nut capital of India. The town limits have about 1,900 households, and the seminar hall had more than 870 people. We had attracted more than 50% of the households in the town.
At the end of the six seminars, Vijay Karnataka prepared a whitepaper listing the demands of the areca nut farmers. The core committee along with the Vijay Karnataka team met with the chief minister of Karnataka, Sri BS Yediyurappa, and briefed him on the campaign. The whitepaper was submitted, and he immediately created a task force responsible to find solutions to all the problems. National policies are likely to be passed in 2020 to help areca farmers.
The areca nut growers found their voice through the most-read newspaper of the state. Vijay Karnataka empowered the community and gained favourable brand loyalty from them.