Orissa's forests, covering a little over 57,000 sq km (or 36.72% of the state's geographical area), are known to have a profusion of 'minor forest produce' (MFP) which has been upgraded due to its importance for tribal livelihood and is called Essential Forest Produce (EFP) through the book. It comprises simple fodder and fuelwood to baffling medicinal herbs, besides numerous economically important plants yielding dyes, tannin, fibres, flosses, essential oils, edible fruits, seeds, leaves, honey among many other items. Yet, despite its enormous economic potential, about three-fourths of this forest wealth has so far been unutilized by the tribal communities largely because of its inaccessibility.
With a holistic "product profile" of Orissa's forests, an eminent anthropologist here looks for the rationale behind the vastly deficient utilization of its EFP - identifying the entire range of causes: from the tribals' incapacity to reach this forest resource to their exploitation by middlemen/traders/moneylenders to the larger forest policy issues. Dr Patnaik also proposes measures which would help tribals not only to actualize the inherent potential of EFP but, in turn, strengthen their economy as well.
It is a painstaking empirical study of interest to social anthropologists, environmental activists, foresters, development economists, forest resource economist’s planners and policy-makers.
Currently, Dr Patnaik is involved in various activities of the Social Science and Development Research Institute (SSADRI) which he set up at Bhubaneswar after his retirement from government service.
1. To make a list of EFP being collected by the tribals, quantity of collection, and economic importance of different items of EFP.
2. To give a sketch of marketing network and determine the degree of elimination of exploitation of tribals by the traders, middlemen and moneylenders.
3. To study the laws, rules and regulations in respect of forests and the role played by different co-operative organisations, corporations and Government of Orissa undertaking in protecting the tribal communities against exploitation.
4. To find out existing situation in regard to processing of different items of EFP and assess the prospects of value addition to benefit the tribal people and to explore the possibilities of processing of EFP items at the tribal level.
5. To review credit packages and products to tribals as well as to the procurement, marketing and processing agencies.
6. Finally to recommend (a) changes, if any required in the existing legal provisions, to prevent exploitation and ensure remunerative price to tribal people; (b) to suggest measures for improvement in the functioning of corporations, co-operative societies and Government of Orissa undertakings connected with procurement and marketing of EFP; (c) to assess credit packages for tribals with suggestions for processing on a priority basis and (e) to prepare a few bankable/viable projects. Keeping these objectives in view, the study was undertaken in Dhenkanal and Karanjia divisions of Angul Circle, Parlakhemundi, Phulbani and Puri divisions of Berhampur circle, Rayagada and Kalahandi of Koraput circle, Bonai and Rairakhol divisions of Sambalpur circle. The investigating team collected data in respect of collection of different items of EFP, quantity collected and the authorised agencies in charge of procurement of EFP. They also gathered information regarding payments due to tribal collectors, role of middlemen, method of collection, price fixation, storage, transport system, forest-based industries and marketing organisations.
In addition to the fieldwork through which primary data were collected by interviewing persons concerned with EFP, data were gathered from secondary sources from the office of PCCF, OFDC, TDCC, UFP, ORMAS, TRIFED, IPICOL and AMCS, Tikabali and a few LAMPS. A few weekly markets were also observed to find out business transactions in respect of EFP between the procuring agencies and tribal communities.
The study was scheduled to be completed in four months. The work started in October, 1995 and went on till the middle of March, 1996. More than one month over the stipulated time period was needed for the completion of the project. Moreover, compared with the extensive and complex nature of the study the time limit was very short and therefore full justice could not be given to make it more comprehensive.
Multiple agencies, both official and non-official are involved in the procurement of EFP. To ascertain real quantum of various items procured is an impossibility. Clandestine collection of EFP by private traders is difficult to ascertain and therefore are off the record. Branches and sub-offices of the corporations are located all over the State. To reach these centres for collection of data need money and time which were in short supply with the project. A study on EFP is largely a technical affair. Requisite knowledge in Botany, Chemistry, Climatology, Physiography and Business Organisations is necessary. Scarcity of fund rendered it impossible for consultation with specialists. Moreover, the time constraint stood in the way of giving training to the investigating team on the Chemistry and Botany of various items of EFP. Record-keeping at various levels is not systematic and therefore it required much longer time for collection of data.
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