How about wearing a face mask with medicinal properties, but at no cost? Tribal groups across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have prepared face masks using leaves from plants with medicinal properties to keep Covid-19 at bay. And the innovative idea of the poverty-hit tribals has paid off. They have almost no cases of novel Coronavirus.
While people in urban areas virtually ran from pillar to post for masks in the initial period of Covid-19 spread, primitive tribal populations, inhabiting the dense forests of AP and Telangana, developed their own face masks.
Unlike city folks, the tribal groups did not wait for the government to augment the supplies. All they did was to select a few trees with medicinal value, pluck their leaves and make improvised facial coverings.
S Balaraju, director of Nature, an NGO, said around 15,000 people are using leaf masks in various tribal pockets of north coastal Andhra. “Many of them belong to the primitive vulnerable tribal groups of the Eastern Ghats,” he added.
It all began with the tribals living in the thick forests of Bhadrachalam on the AP-Telangana border.
From the Bhadrachalam forests, the idea soon caught up with the tribals in the Nallamala, Yerramala and Araku in Andhra Pradesh and in the forests of Adilabad, Khammam and Warangal in Telangana. The tribals ranging from the most primitive Chenchus to Konda Reddys, Gonds, Gutti Koyas, Bondas, Parangiporaja, Muliyas, Kodhu, Gadabas, Savaras and Yanadis sported leaf masks.
The variety of leaves used change from habitation to habitation – from masks from leaves of teak and sal to palm or pongamia leaves. Others wore castor leaves.
The Gutti Koya tribals of Bhadrachalam forests in Telangana used locally available large leaves that can stay fresh and provide protection for as long as five hours.
Nadala Butki, former sarpanch of Iragai, Araku Valley mandal, said, “The traditional leaf masks are mainly made from Pongamia. Traditionally, Pongamia leaf bowls are popularly used here. The bowls are converted to masks after attaching them to natural fibre strings”.
Korra Addu, a tribal youth leader from Ganella said, “Though the government distributed masks, we switched to the leaf masks after exhausting them. Each of us got three masks from the government.”
(This story is part of a series in association with Facebook. Facebook has no editorial role in this story.)