Adding value to Mahua in pandemic times

Judicious and commercial use of Mahua flowers and fruits can be a profitable enterprise for the villagers by value addition. Besides several products, the villagers learnt that Mahua flowers could be a source of producing sanitiser, making them self reliant in the times of pandemic.

The people of Tikamgarh district, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, have a simple existence close to forest, but the encroachment of paved roads and the mounting ambition of urbanization have led to some unwelcome changes. Although, livelihood sustenance based on forestry products has been a part of the traditional lifestyle here, however, a large amount of this practice is being lost owing to changes in village life resulting in adapting to new ways of living. Also, with a long and recurrent history of drought, local people are forced to migrate to the metropolitan cities in search for constant work which is hard to find in rural settings.

Reviving the forest heritage

The entire area under the district traditionally enjoys a good coverage of forest and that too with trees of economic importance such as Mahua (Madhuca longifolia), Palas (Butea monosperma) Teak (Tectona grandis) and Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon). Mahua is an important source of income for the rural population. It is traditionally a source of alcohol. On the other hand, Tendu leaves are used to make beedis.

“Despite abundance, the traditional method of collection of Mahua flowers and fruits is unhygienic, drying is not proper and storage is unscientific”, observed by Dr. L.M.Bal, an agricultural scientist. He opined that unscientific storage led to heavy microbial load, making them suitable only for liquor distillation and cattle feed. It was also observed that owing to lack of knowledge on processing, there was distress selling of the Mahua flowers. To address these issues, the Agriculture College in Tikamgarh with the financial support of Biodiversity Board, Government of Madhya Pradesh, took up a project and standardized suitable drying (microwave and solar drying) and preservation methods to get the desired quality of dehydrated Mahua flowers.

The several drying characteristics, effective moisture diffusivity and colour kinetics of Mahua flowers during drying by different methods (solar and microwave drying) were extensively explored in the well equipped biochemistry laboratory of the college. Physico-chemical properties of dried Mahua flowers were evaluated primarily to know moisture content, colour measurement, rehydration ratio, and protein and total sugar content. All these studies have revealed that Mahua flowers can be easily refined as natural sweeteners to make local delicacies such as pudding, kheer, puri and barfi. The transformation of dried Mahua flowers into diverse range of food products such as Dried flower, candied flower, Mahua bar, Ready-to-Serve beverages (RTS), Squash, Jam, Laddu , Cake and Toffee have been demonstrated to the villagers.  The double distillation process in the laboratory also resulted in extraction of alcohol. Extracts from Basil leaves, Lemon Grass and Aleovera were used to remove the smell emanating from Mahua.

Covid 19-an opportunity unleashed

The Corona pandemic and the inevitability of Lock Down forced the region’s expatriates to return home. Lacking any source of income, the condition of these people who have returned to the village has become miserable. Additionally, the very small land holdings, the severe apathy of youth towards agriculture, and lack of resources including water aggravated the problems.

During the village tour, the team of scientists and students of the College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh, observed that despite nationwide spread of pandemic, the villagers had great indifference towards the use of sanitizer. Besides, there was also a lot of frustration among the returned migrants as there was no source of income available.  In these difficult times, the College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh tried to offer a better option to earn the livelihood of these migrants through value addition of locally and abundantly available Mahua. The college team took initiatives for exploiting the plurality of Mahua trees in the area not only by using it as a source of income for the local people but also made them aware to use alcohol based sanitizer to avoid COVID infection.

A total of 300 quintals of Mahua was procured from the villagers and approximately 60 litres Mahua sanitizers have been prepared and distributed among villagers so far. The sanitizer has been distributed to rural youth in a 100 ml bottle. Initially, the popularization and commercialization of Mahua based food products and sanitizers were being undertaken through hands on training to the youth of adopted villages.  The laboratory is also extending the shelf life of the dried Mahua  and thus alleviating the decay issue of Mahua and making it available throughout the year.


People in the village have now understood the importance of sanitizer and have become aware that it is a protective option made of things around them. Many villagers are seeing possibilities of utilizing not only mahua flowers but also taking interest in planting Giloy, Tulsi and Lemongrass plants in house pots and beds.  Ajay Yadav of Karmarai village, also a volunteer of the project says that the village people have strong likings for Barfi and candies made of Mahua. The youth who have returned back from the metropolitan cities are now not only interested in collecting Mahua flowers and fruits but also learning to make other value-added products of Mahua through guidance from the college. I have no plan of going to big cities again for job even if the pandemic situation improves, says, Dayaram Ahirwar. These value added products have not only provided additional income, but also enabled farmers to return to their villages and be self reliant in the times of pandemic.

Yogranjan, Lalit Mohal Bal, Dinesh Kumar and Ayushi Soni

Yogranjan, Scientist (Biotechnology)


Lalit Mohal Bal, Scientist (Post Harvest Technology)


Dinesh Kumar, Scientist (Animal Nutrition)


College of Agriculture, Tikamgarh, M.P.-472001, India

Ayushi Soni, Research Scholar

College of Agriculture, Gwalior, M.P.- 474011, India


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