The current political economy in India, hand held by the ‘ease of business’ perspective, is pushing the globalization processes of economic growth to its peak. The NTFP Exchange Programme India is aware of the impact these processes have on Adivasi communities and the forests on which they depend for sustenance, their cultural expressions, and their health and nutrition. In order to evolve a counter narrative to this economic juggernaut, the network works on some specific legal instruments and their applications, these being the Forest Rights Act, especially focusing on Habitat Rights of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups, the Community Rights and the Community Forest Resource Area recognition in and around protected areas.
In the states where the Exchange Programme has a presence it has engaged with forest policy by analytically examining the policy framework around NTFPs. The legal provisions of PESA have also been utilized to challenge state induced ‘development’ projects, especially mining. The evolving forest governance landscape in the form of the Forest Rights Act is seen as an empowering tool, and interventions for implementing it on the ground is part of the work. Facilitating village level processes by utilizing the provisions of the FRA, raising relevant concerns, identifying the gaps and illegalities in its implementation, facilitating preparation of conservation and management plans as part of post forest rights recognition strategy, have been cornerstone of the network’s engagement.
The Exchange Programme will be involved in bringing an NTFP orientation in afforestation programmes of the government, especially through the plantation programmes of various states. In order to strengthen the NTFP-based livelihoods of the Adivasi communities, monitoring the Minimum Support Price policy for NTFPs and utilizing the convergence mechanism available under the MGNREGA are also in the offing.
The Exchange Programme envisages interventions in the food security areas of the government, with a view to highlight the dependence of Adivasi communities on wild foods for health and nutrition; this angle may impact the policies on mining and other infrastructure projects that affect the availability of uncultivated foods. Advocacy efforts for evolving a national level policy on NTFPs, and addressing the current conflicting forest governance regime that is not FRA and PESA compliant, will to be taken up by the NTFP EP India in the coming years.