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An Herb Garden Initiative is Empowering Survivors of Bonded Labor

In an effort to protect survivors of bonded labor from further exploitation, the government in Tamil Nadu, India, established an herb garden for families of the Irula tribal community. By cultivating and selling herbs, medicinal plants and fruit-bearing trees the survivors can now earn a stable income, reducing their risk of re-bondage.


The government in Kancheepuram district set up an herb garden which is worth 813,000 rupees ($9,800 USD) and provides ten survivor families and 30 other families with the opportunity to cultivate and sell a diverse range of herbs, medicinal plants and fruit-bearing trees. Having secure job opportunities will prevent them from obtaining loans from unscrupulous lenders who prey on their vulnerability.

The herb garden is the result of a livelihood project proposal that Released Bonded Laborers Association (RBLA) had submitted with IJM’s help, which was approved by the government in September 2017.

This initiative is part of many others that the government has been regularly creating, from helping survivors and other vulnerable families earn a stable income to establishing a first-of-its-kind, holistic community for survivors.

The herb garden is significant as it preserves the knowledge of traditional medicinal herbs.

People from the Irula community hold a wealth of traditional knowledge on the medicinal properties of a wide variety of herbs. Valorizing their indigenous expertise, Dr. Aarthi, IAS, the District Collector of Kancheepuram, inaugurated the project on April 20, 2023. Emphasizing the significance of this initiative, she said, “This project will provide families with a steady income as well as help pass on traditional knowledge to younger generations.”

Following the launch, Pachaiyammal, an RBLA leader, gave a tour of the herb garden to the District Collector. During the tour, she shared insights about the characteristics and uses of each plant.

Government Establishes New Herb Garden Business

Expressing her delight at the sight of the garden, Pachaiyammal said: “This project is very close to my heart since it was I who submitted the petition to the District Collector. It brings me great joy to see this project materialize. I feel very happy when the Collector visits our village and checks on my well-being. I hope this would inspire other survivors to come forward and access government welfare measures.”

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