Apart from timber and firewood that are regard as major forest produces, minor forest products (MFPs) also known as non-timber forest products (NTFP) that include all products obtainable from forest. For numerous forest dwellers across India, particularly people from scheduled tribes, MFP has significant economic and social value. Its uses range from subsistence to raw materials for handicraft, from medicinal purposes to construction, from self consumption to trading. As a consequence millions of people in rural areas depend on forests for at least part of their livelihoods.
Economic development strategies are beginning to include the capital values of forests in national policies and programmes that modify forest stocks, qualities and distributions. Forests are entering the central equations of macroeconomic growth, often with new definitions of what the forest is and does. Thus it is understood that natural forest will have greater long-term benefits if left standing. If poverty can be alleviated through harvesting forest products, then there will be greater incentive to conserve those forests.
However people who depend on MFP remained unresolved in several issues relating to problems such as perishable nature of the produce, lack of holding capacity, lack of marketing infrastructure, exploitation by middlemen, lack of Government intervention at the required time and scale, volatile nature of markets etc. Ensuring fair returns to these poor people is duty of the State. Thus a centrally-sponsored scheme was rolled out at the end of 2013-14 (during the 12th five-year plan) to ensure fair and remunerative price to MFP gatherers. The scheme is expected to protect the forest dwellers from exploitation by offering them the opportunity to sell their MFPs in the protected environment with assured return. In October 2016, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) revised the guidelines for the scheme. The scheme will touch the lives of tribal people involved in collection of MFPs across all the States and help optimum utilization of natural resources in a sustainable manner. This scheme will be an important milestone in economic development of tribals.