Introduction

As long as forest-based communities have existed they have used the resources found in the region for their subsistence and as a source of income. They have harvested a wide range of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), defined as “all biological materials, other than timber, which are extracted from forests for human use. These include rattan and other material for craft making, forest fruits, resins, gums, medicinal plants and honey. The NTFP-EP works with communities to optimize the use and management of NTFP resources with the aim of supporting basic livelihoods and also to provide strong incentives for forest conservation. Many state governments and institutions have accepted that NTFPs are economically crucial for revenue but have not put any rules for their sustainable harvest; the NTFP-EP has brought the “sustainability angle” into NTFP interests in the country.

[su_spoiler title=”Read More…”]In India the NTFP scenario varies across the country. Usually adivasi and other forest communities are the gatherers, there is no/low processing and the market is uncertain and in the hands of traditional middlemen and traders. Over the years the markets of NTFPs have got concentrated in specific areas like Amritsar, Delhi, Nepalgunj, Raipur, Vishakapatnam, Kolkata, Virudhnagar, etc. The main products are used in the Ayurvedic/Homeopathic industry and the herbal cosmetic industry, and, increasingly, bio-fuels. Other markets relate to beedi making, natural dyeing, paints and varnishes and religious needs. Usually gatherers get low returns due to market malpractices and an almost complete ignorance about the value/use/status of the NTFPs they sell at the destination. Laws, policies and programmes of the government have influenced these processes in different ways in the states. Livelihood of adivasis usually revolves around usufruct rights of forests – both for subsistence and commercial needs. Some rare instances of community ownership of forests and community forestry exist in the North East region and in Orissa. Relatively, few NGOs and CBOs work with adivasis and with NTFP issues. Recognizing the benefits of sharing experiences and pooling expertise, an informal group was formed in 1988, of practitioners working in local initiatives in India, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia. As the initiatives gained strength and momentum, the group – the NTFP Exchange Programme South and Southeast Asia – registered as a non-governmental organization in September 2003. Known as the NTFP-EP, the collaborative network now comprises of several NGOs and community based organizations working together to enhance their capacities in the sustainable management of resources. The partner organizations of the EP works with local communities in developing and implementing initiatives that meet local needs, while respecting the integrity of cultural traditions. The EP strives to ensure that the benefits from these initiatives are enjoyed equally by young and old, and by men and women of local indigenous communities. In India some groups and individuals have come together as a network, engaging with forests and forest communities in a variety of ways. A collective interest in adivasi well-being and forest conservation – points to the general direction of interest. The way we participate brings in the selective flavour of the network, some show a specific interest in government policies concerning forest and land use, especially those that leave a mark on the adivasi people; some focus on forest regeneration, establishing nurseries and planting; some have dwelt long among honey hunters, bridging tradition and market, making honey link flowers and forest to conservation; some groups campaign against infrastructure projects that threaten/destroy natural ecosystems that indigenous communities inhabit and depend upon for their survival. Policies regarding forest produce among the different states are sometimes at odds with each other, often a reason for unsustainable harvest of NTFPs; some states have larger adivasi populations, giving them an inherent confidence lacking elsewhere. It is seldom realized that the adivasi people come from extremely varying traditions, their languages and metaphors suggesting specific ways of relating to the forest, that they are not just ethnicity and statistic. Almost no state sees its adivasi people as a valid and living tradition, as something to learn from, despite their long experience in specific ecological zones. Since 2002-03 the links within India grew and confronted newer dimensions to forests and forest peoples, becoming what it is now. EP-India has no common language; realizing that diversity is the alternative it uses several to ensure good communication. Siddhi, Koitoor, Kurumba, Irula, Malayalam, English, Hindi, Oriya, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Gondi, Kollami, Durwa, Kharia, and much humour, are some of them. The people speaking these various languages have carved out their own niches in the tropical forest landscape; their understanding of their environment is, in many senses, “the knowledge bank” of the NTFP-EP. The EP-India has a presence in states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra as it is concentrating efforts in Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats and Central India. A list of the partners and associations of this group is elaborated below.[/su_spoiler]
  • Goal & Strategy The shared goal of the partners of NTFP-EP is to empower forest-based communities to make use of and manage forest resources in a sustainable manner. To this end, the NTFP-EP catalyses and supports activities that build up and strengthen the ... Read more...
  • Policy – Law and Advocacy There are a gamut of national and state policies that affect NTFPs, Adivasi rights and Forests as a whole. The network will address the following: 1. Application and Implementation of relevant laws for the benefit of conservation and adivasi rights (eg. ... Read more...
  • Conservation Forests and their ecosystems are essential for the adivasi way of life and for NTFPs. Community based knowledge and use have ensured that forests have remained protected from other industrial pressures. However, there are aspects of growing adivasi populations, shrinking ... Read more...
  • Livelihood & Market Access Livelihoods of Adivasis in India are intrinsically forest based. Across the country, barring a few exceptions – engaging with land, forests, water and available labour are the major things people pursue. In an effort to look at livelihood holistically, the ... Read more...
  • Methods At the local, national and regional levels, the NTFP-EP and its partner organisations undertake the following interventions: • Facilitating the exchange of expertise, experiences and approaches; • Building back pride in indigenous practices and identity • Providing technical support/backstopping and enabling training; • Giving ... Read more...