Forest Governance and Food Security of Adivasi and Traditional Forest Dependent Communities
Forests have been a source of food and shelter for millions in India. The poor, especially the tribals, have been dependent on forests round the year as it provides employment during agricultural lean season in the form of collection and sale of minor forest produces, fuel wood, etc. Various studies by government and non-government agencies have established that about 40% of the annual income of poor and the landless come from non-timber forest produce (NTFP)1. It is estimated that 80% of the population of developing countries use NTFP to meet their needs in health and nutrition (FAO, 1997). A World Bank estimate shows that the medicinal plant industry/herbal market in India is worth 5000 crore INR. NTFP provide about 40 percent of total forest revenues and 55 percent of forest-based employment. In Odisha, the contribution is about 80% and 50% respectively.
As per government figures about 65% of the forest cover is in 187 tribal dominated districts, out of 50 districts which have dense forest cover, 49 are tribal districts. (MoEF: 2006). About 260 million people live below poverty line, out of which 100 million are partially or wholly dependent on forests, out of which 70 million are tribals. (FSI: 2004). Odisha has about 29302 forest fringe villages and out of the total number of forest fringe villages of the country, 60 percent belongs to the Central Indian states. The central Indian forest patch that extends from western Odisha to eastern Maharastra is a rich reservoir of wide variety of flora and fauna, where tribal dependence on forest is fairly high. These central Indian states apart from having good area under forest cover also have major portion of the Schedule V areas of the country.
As per various studies undertaken at different points of time, in most forested parts of Odisha, especially in northern, southern and southern-western, forest dependence amongst tribals and other traditional forest dwellers have been fairly high with an income from forests ranging between 30 to 40 per cent from non-timber forest produces and other forest produces. However, dependence on forest produces for sustenance for the tribals has been a rollercoaster ride with issues concerning shifts in forest governance, market fluctuations and associated low returns, migration and growth of other local livelihoods opportunities.
More information on the Website of Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung South Asia in New Delhi.