Alappuzha: At a time when rubber farmers in Kerala are struggling, Sister Rose Kayathinkara, a Catholic nun popularly known as 'rubber sister', who introduced Kerala's rubber cultivation in remote Garo Hills, Meghalaya, remains an unsung social worker who has empowered hundreds of villagers including women.
Originally from Bharananganam, Kottayam, Sister Rose, a trained X-Ray technician, ventured to Meghalaya with the idea of 'rubber plantation' in 1987 and has now pioneered the Mendipathar Multipurpose Co-operative Society Ltd (MMCS) helping out tribals to market their products.
Talking to Deccan Chronicle over phone from Garo Hills, Sister Rose described the success story she scripted in a very remote village in the hilly part of India. When she reached Garo Village in the eighties, there was a huge debate among villagers about the disadvantages of Jhuming (Shifting cultivation) as it was not eco-friendly. In addition, due to the increase in population, the people were starving to death without a proper livelihood. Sister Rose then hit upon the idea of growing rubber plants and encouraged the villagers to take up rubber cultivation.
She won the confidence of villagers and then contacted the Rubber Board for assistance. She managed to bring a bogie-full of rubber plants in the train from Kerala to Meghalaya and taught villagers to cultivate plantations. Initially, villagrs wondered what they would eat if they worked on the plantation. But, when the plantations began to reap benefits, there was renewed interest among them.
“Rubber is always in my blood because my father was a planter,” she said. “Here villagers have no education, no bank account, and no knowledge of the outside world. The recent demonetisation has shattered these poor people's life because MMCS is unable to pay them,” she points out.
It was in 1998, this nun belonging to the Medical Mission Sisters established MMCS in Mendipathar.
She did not stop her noble journey with rubber plantations, but explored it by giving tips on poultry in 2003, piggery farming in 2008 and Coconut farming last year. She plans to go in for coconut plantation in around 265 hectares of land in Garo Hills.
She has studied medical technology and has got a Bachelor's Degree in social services. She was also associated with Caritas India's North East Regional Forum as its coordinator and focused on the empowerment of women.
At 74, when she looks back on her service to society, her encouragement to the new generation is that "every person has the power to change the world."...