It is well known that the Minor Forest Products (MFPs) are of great importance to the village and forest dwellers including tribal at the grassroots level. MFPs have been known for their economic value from generations. MFPs have been collected, consumed and traded by the village and forest dwellers living in and around their habitats.
To make the value added products harvesting, collection, grading, processing are of prime importance in the marketing of MFPs for fetching better returns. Generally little value addition of the traditional type is done by the gatherers and thereby an important portion of the value chain is lost to them. Organising gatherers and training them in primary processing and also encouraging local entrepreneurs for higher level of processing need rigorous efforts.
Often extraction practices are not sound and adversely affect regeneration of these resources. Gatherers need to be properly trained in the best practices. Moreover, regeneration and creation of new MFP resources through afforestation would be necessary. It is essential to encourage a direct interest in forest and its ecosystem, their development and conservation among the people and to make them conscious of the value of trees, wildlife and nature in general.
Value Addition assumes critical importance in ensuring remunerative prices to the tribals in the renewed approach. Most of the value addition to MFP takes place outside the regions where these are collected. Consequently, the tribal people get a very low price for the raw products. The lack of appropriate value addition for increasing the shelf life of the product reduces the bargaining power of the tribal because they have to dispose their produce within a stipulated time-period. Education and training on MFPs should be properly strengthened with regards to the methods of resource generation, improved practices for extraction, propagation, harvesting, collection and processing, grading, optimum appropriate utilization indicating the possibility of obtaining value added products on a large scale. Involvement of educational institutions, right from the primary stage, should help in this direction.
Besides, livelihood projects can be taken up on priority basis under the National Livelihood Mission. MFPs species which can play a significant role of uplifting the general economy have to be identified region-wise and plans have to be devised to integrate planting of MFP species. Since the farmers and other inhabitants of the forest are ignorant of improved or appropriate cultivation practices, they do not wish to raise large scale plantations. Therefore, establishing a MFP Training Institute to create awareness is of utmost importance where different media may be employed for creating awareness like long and short term training courses, field tours, demonstration plots/ farms, audio-visual aids etc.
Thus observing that without value addition of MFP, possibility of providing remunerative prices to the MFP gatherers is limited, TRIFED has now designed its training programmes to include forward & backward linkages as an integral part of the training. The objective is to empower the beneficiaries through training, provide information and handhold them by including them as a supplier of TRIFED as far as possible or link them to different marketing channels. TRIFED’s training programmes can be divided in two categories.
One that leads to production of marketable product as an outcome of the training based on which an enterprise can be started with the assistance of State. Such trainings are value addition trainings on Hill Grass, Tamarind, Dona Pattal, Amla, Honey & some Agro based items like spices, herbs, cashew, etc. The trainees shall be supported in establishing marketing linkages and establishing their enterprise. While TRIFED propose to provide them with initial tool kits but for long-term sustenance of their initiative they will be converted into an enterprise with the active support of State Government. State Government’s participation will help ensure convergence by expanding the beneficiary base and can also compliment & supplement these initiatives in a positive manner by arranging to provide financial & administrative support in the form of working capital loans, Grants, subsidy, infrastructural support etc. wherever possible to help beneficiaries in establishing their enterprise and providing marketing linkages. Initial marketing linkages are also proposed to be provided as part of the training programme by marketing their products through TRIBES INDIA outlets established by TRIFED or any other outlet locally, directly by them. They will be encouraged to market their products locally in a systematic manner so that they can take control of their enterprise without continuous support from any outside agency. A brand is also proposed to be established for such MFP products that can be sold in Retail to help provide a distinct identity to such products.
Second is purely skill development training under which inputs are provided to the tribals to cultivate, collect and harvest MFP items in a scientific manner so that it not only improves the quantity & quality of the produce but also protects the environment. These trainings will result in earning livelihood through Lac cultivation, Processing of TBOs & Mahuwa Flower business activity in a scientific manner. These are purely skill development training under which they will be trained to enhance quantity collects and its quality so that their income improves. They will be encouraged to work in SHG mode for these training and work collectively to improve their incomes.
This two stage value additions would be the basis for enhancing livelihood income of the tribals under the scheme. The grassroots level procurement is proposed to be undertaken through SHGs associated with Implementing Agencies. Convergence and Networking with other Govt departments / scheme shall be undertaken to utilise the services of existing SHGs, Aajivika etc. These SHGs shall be appropriately empowered to undertake the procurement operations on scientific and systematic lines. The SHG members shall undertake preliminary value addition like cleaning, grading, drying & home level primary processing under the direction and supervision of State Implementing Agency. The stock after preliminary processing shall be supplied by these SHGs to the storage of State Implementing Agencies. For higher value addition of MFPs, Big Corporates shall be involved under PPP model. This PPP model will be based on utilising Private entrepreneur skills in undertaking processing as well as marketing of the produce and Central / State Government support in terms of creating infrastructure and providing enabling environment for undertaking value addition of systematic scientific lines. These will be sophisticated large value addition hubs managed by Private entrepreneur.
The entire operation shall be monitored through State level committee headed by Chief Secretary and district level committees headed by District Collector for effective implementation of the provisions of 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.