I love being a staff writer for 3BL Media/Justmeans on topics - Social Innovation, Social Enterprise and Social Entrepreneurs. When I am not writing for 3BL Media/Justmeans, I wear my other hat as owner of Serendipity PR. Over the years I have worked with high-profile, big, powerful brands and organisations within the public, not-for-profit and corporate sectors; and won awards from my industry....
India' Social Innovation Hot Chilli Grenade
Who would have thought that India's celebrated super chilli the 'bhut joloki' would become part of a social innovation project that could hopefully help its poor farmers out of poverty?! This particular hot chilli is being supplied to India's Ministry of Defence and various state police forces around the country for the potential use in controlling crowds and subduing riots. As a result farmers are being offered subsidies to cultivate the plant, with some famous Assam tea gardens being involved.
This social innovation story starts in the North East state of Assam and its 'bhut jolokia', which was officially titled as being the 'world's hottest chilli' in 2007 by the Guinness Book of Records. Though five years on its chilli supremacy may have been challenged, however, since then India's celebrated super chilli is being supplied to make chilli grenades! It is reported that the Central Reserve Police Force, India's largest armed force, which specialises in counter-insurgency has started using chilli grenades to blast at stone throwers in the tense region of Kashmir.
There is a lot of money to be made from this crop; a kilo of dried 'bhut jolokia' sells for about 1,800 rupees (£21/$32), a fortune for the average farmer, who generally survives on a meagre subsistence, taking home 150 rupees (£1.72/$2.70) a day. Trinity Care Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation based in this region has recently selected another 2,000 Assamese farmers to grow the crop.
One local biotechnologist called Dr Anuj Baruah is doing well from this new social innovation industry and has been casually cultivating' bhut jolokia' for years at home. He knew the chilli had potential outside the culinary and medicinal arenas. So, he quit his job at a state-run petroleum research institute and started experimenting in a makeshift laboratory he set up on a patch of land rented from a local tribe in Khetri, 25 miles from Guwahati, Assam's main city. Soon, he was dealing with the Indian ministry of defence ministry who wanted to know if he could find a way of extracting the chemical pigment capsaicin from 'bhut jolokia'. If he could then the Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur, Assam wanted 8kg for 'research purposes'. Dr Baruh got a loan, bought an extraction machine and fulfilled the order in three months, refining the process to such a degree that he managed to produce 90% of the order.
This June 2012 police in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populated and high-crime state reportedly asked the home affairs ministry to be allowed to buy chilli grenades for crowd control. Business is booming for the local farmer and the 'bhut jolokia' which is creating a spicy and fiery heritage.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia