(Info) Forest-based Livelihoods in Bundelkhand



Forest-based Livelihoods

Forest-based Livelihoods in Bundelkhand

Mahua flowers, fruits and seeds, tendu leaves and firewood are a major source of livelihood for people living in hilly areas of Bundelkhand, like the Kols in Patha area of Chitrakoot, tribal groups living in and around forests of Panna district and Sahariyas of Lalitpur district.

Mahua flower, collected in March-April, is used to make alcohol locally for domestic consumption and sale. Mahua fruit, collected in June-July, is used in production of medicines and oil, and sold to middlemen. Whole families, including children and the aged, are engaged in collection of these products.

In terms of value, tendu leaves are the most important forest produce in Bundelkhand and its collection and sale is done through state agencies in both UP and MP. Wages from tendu collection are a crucial source of supplementary income to tribal families in the lean agriculture season. However, compared to final sale value, quantity-based wages paid for collection are low and instances of delayed or improperly calculated wage payments are common.

Tendu leaves, collected by tribals, are used to wrap beedis, after drying and curing. Mature leaves are collected from around the middle of April to the middle of May, over a period of around six weeks. Whole families are engaged in tendu leaf collection, receiving wages as per number of bundles. In MP, collection is organised through cooperative societies of people involved in the job. The societies sell leaves packed in bags to the MP State Minor Forest Produce Federation, which fixes rates every year. In 2006, the rate for one standard bag of 50,000 leaves was Rs 400 only.

Collection of firewood and sale in nearby markets is a regular source of income for families with little or no productive land. The extent of this business can be gauged any morning in Manikpur railway station, in Chitrakoot district, when hundreds of bundles of firewood collected from the Patha jungles, are loaded in passenger trains, for sale at other places.

A study of 53 households living on the outskirts of the Panna Reserve Forest in Panna district, conducted as part of the MP Human Development Report 2002 [p 85], revealed that the households earned a total annual income of around Rs. 3.23 lakhs through collection of tendu leaves, mahua products and firewood. The households plucked tendu leaves worth Rs. 1.5 lakh, which were sold to co-operatives. Mahua leaves and nuts worth Rs. 98,000 were either sold in local markets (haats) or to traders in barter. Fuel wood worth Rs. 65,000 annually, was sold to employees of the Majhgawan diamond mines nearby. While the 53 households also had other income sources, the income from forest produce accounted for 85 % of the total income of 46 households. Each family on an average earned Rs 9450 from the forests.

Other forest produce collected and sold is medicinal plants and products like harra, gond, imli, khair, chiraunji, babul, anjan and salbeaj.

Income from forests can increase in a sustainable manner, for the benefit of tribal groups and the State, if forest management practices are fundamentally altered. The current reality is that, as in most other parts of India, the forest department and communities living in and around forests in Bundelkhand are in an adversarial position. This does not help the forest department, the communities, or the forests.

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Courtesy : bundelkhandinfo.org