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
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.
Courtesy : bundelkhandinfo.org