L'Express (Port Louis)

24 November 2012

Mauritius: Mission and Vision

Anooradah's bid to replace sugar cane with stevia When Anooradah speaks about her project of mass producing stevia in lieu of sugar cane, one gets the impression that she might be out of her mind.

But visionaries have very often been branded mad on the onset of their mission and Anooradah might be on the right track when one hears what Professor Jan Geuns, stevia specialist and president of the European Stevia Association (Eustas) has to say on this natural plant sweetener that contains no calorie.

« Stevia will soon replace cane sugar and aspartame in all these foodstuff, soft drinks and juice in all of our supermarkets" he says. Anooradah Pooran who has been helping poor families of Chemin Grenier and its vicinity to earn a decent living by producing and selling heirloom medicinal plants, have also been producing and selling stevia leaves.

These dried leaves have been adopted by diabetics as well as poor families who cannot afford paying for refined or even raw sugar cane. "Our organisation, Secrets Grand-Mère, has been selling stevia plants for Rs 50 and we have been buying back the leaves from these poor families for dehydration and marketing since many years" she says.

But Anooradah Pooran has a more ambitious vision. Mass producing stevia leaves and manufacturing stevia powder.

"We are exporting to neighbouring countries and the product ion of stevia powder will only be at our reach when we mass produce" she explains.

Her project is now in an advanced stage. She has already brought stevia consultants from India and convinced many small holders cultivating sugar cane that revenues from stevia will be higher.

"Around twenty of these sugar cane planters have accepted to replace their cane cultivation with stevia. I am soon flying to India to bring in thousands of stevia plants I have ordered for these planters. They have the guarantee that all their leaves will be bought back by my organisation" she explains to l'express web this week.

Many a poor family helped by Anooradan are now producing and selling stevia leaves and plant. Stevia plants meant for sugar cane planters will arrive on the island by January and the first harvest for these plants are expected by end of March.

In the meantime, Anooradah is pursuing her campaign to get more planters to join the scheme and more Mauritians to consume stevia leaves instead of sugar or other imported sweetener.

"You will be surprised if I list all the benefits of stevia to you. It is good for your heart, for your teeth, for your blood pressure, it combats stress, it ..."

The list is in fact very long. It would be a surprise if Anooradah fails in her Stevia project, a natural sweetener which the American food and Drug Administration has tried to ban because, according to American journalist, of the powerful lobby of Coca Cola. It had to give way at last and allow the use of stevia extract as sweetener.

Anooradah knows that these economic lobby might stand in her way. But she has a powerful ally in the European and American association for stevia.

Read the French version of this article in this weekend's issue of l'express dimanche.

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