Lockdown halts harvesting season in forests-THE HINDU-04-04-2020
Tribals stitch leaves, collected from forests, to make plates in Odisha’s Rayagada district. Lakhs of tribals in Odisha, who have pinned their hopes on sale of Non-Timber Forest Products being collected during March-June, are staring at a grim future as the COVID-19 lockdown has coincided with the harvesting season. The lockdown has badly impacted livelihood of forest-dependent communities. Forest products are seasonal in nature with major incomes of tribal accruing in the months of March to June.
Since March 22 when the ‘Janata curfew’ was imposed, the weekly markets in tribal-dominated regions also started to fall apart. Pani said, “in Odisha, majority of population are landless in tribal region. The earnings from forest products in 3-4 months period contribute to 60 to 80% of their annual income. As per conservative estimate, Odisha’s NTFP market pegs at Rs.5000 crore.
The State government should immediately establish and ensure collection centres function under the Van Dhan Vikash Kendra scheme, he pointed out, adding that forest dependent communities must be assured of minimum support price and total procurement of minor forest produces collected by them. Of the 156 VDVKs proposed in Odisha, only one centre at Kuchinda in Sambalpur district has been made functional. As the confusion is prevailing on ground, Tribal Development Co-operative Corporation of Odisha Limited, which facilitate the marketing of tribal produces, said it would intervene after lockdown. “We have instructed primary procurement agencies to start procuring minor forest produces once lock-down is over,” said Sanat Mohanty, Managing Director of TDCC.
According to ground reports, forest dependent communities have not fully started collection of NTFPs, because they cannot dispose produces immediately.