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10. Non-wood forest produce (NWFP) for poverty reduction
R.B.S. Rawat
[13] and R.C. Uniyal[14]


ABSTRACT

Besides timber, India's forests are a great repository of many non-wood forest produce, which can be harvested on a non-destructive basis. Medicinal plants are among the most important NWFP in India. According to World Health Organization (WHO), 80 percent of the people in developing countries rely on traditional natural medicines and 85 percent of the traditional medicines involve the use of plant extracts. In India, millions of people residing in and around forests rely on NWFP for their subsistence and more than half of the employment generated in the forestry sector is related to NWFP. Medicinal and aromatic plants provide critical livelihood support as well as affordable and culturally relevant sources of health care for a large number of South Asia's poor. The dependence of tribal and marginalized population to eke out their livelihoods based on the income drawn from these and other related plants is more pronounced in the uplands of South Asia than other parts of the region. At present, 90 percent of medicinal plants are collected from the wild, generating about 40 million man-days employment. Under the Vanaspati Van Scheme of the Department of Family Welfare, 275 000 ha would be allocated for medicinal plants conservation and generating 50 million man-days by involving NGOs, federations, societies, cooperatives and individuals. The National Medicinal Plants Board is actively involved in poverty alleviation by way of involving rural people in the cultivation of medicinal plants. Quite a large number of projects have been funded through contractual farming system by the board with the involvement of all types of stakeholders associated with the sector. Cultivation of medicinal plants may become an economic activity, which would eventually bring prosperity to the growers.

NWFP FOR POVERTY REDUCTION

Geography of India with climatic conditions varying from tropical to alpine has resulted in an enormously rich biodiversity. It is amongst the 12 mega-biodiversity countries of the world. Of the total land area of 328 million ha, about 22 percent (74.74 million ha) comprises the notified forest area in India. This is only 1 percent of the productive forest area of the world, it supports 15 percent of the world's human population and massive livestock population. On the world map of forest resources, India is classified as a forest deficit zone. Out of 74.74 million ha, 25 million ha contains only sparse growth and 14.74 million ha is unproductive. Thus, only 35 million ha of forest is well wooded.

Besides timber species forests are also a repository of many non-wood forest produce (NWFP). By definition, NWFP is the forest produce other than timber, which can be harvested on a non-destructive basis. It includes all goods of biological origin other than wood in all its forms, as well as services derived from forests. They include a number of goods such as fodder, fibres, flosses, food and food additives, fertilizer (bio-mass), medicinal plants and herbal potions, phyto-chemicals and aromatic chemicals, fatty oils, latex, gums, resins and other exudates and different kinds of animal products (honey, wax, lacquer, silk, etc.).

Medicinal plants are among the most important NWFP in India. According to WHO, 80 percent of the people in developing countries rely on traditional natural medicines and 85 percent of the traditional medicines involve the use of plant extracts. Medicinal plants grow in about 80 percent of forest in India. Around 70 percent of India's medicinal plants are found in tropical areas among the dry and moist deciduous vegetation, viz. Western and Eastern Ghats, Aravali and sub-tropical regions of Himalayas. Although less than 30 percent of the medicinal plants are found in the evergreen and temperate habitats, they include species of high medicinal value.

In India, millions of people residing in and around forests rely on NWFP for their subsistence and more than half of the employment generated in the forestry sector is related to NWFP. Medicinal and aromatic plants provide critical livelihood support as well as affordable and culturally relevant sources of health care for a large number of South Asia's poor. The dependence of tribal and marginalised population to eke out their livelihoods based on the income drawn from these and other related plants is more pronounced in the uplands of South Asia than other parts in the region. The increasing interest in medicinal, aromatic natural dye and other NWFP plants especially their growing commercialization, has raised important socio-economic and ethical issues. These have also highlighted vital gaps in the knowledge about the sustainability of the trade based on these plant resources, the impact of exploitative trading on local economy, and the deteriorating status of the natural habitats. At present, 90 percent of medicinal plants are collected from the wild, generating about 40 million man-days of employment (part and full). Under the Vanaspati Van Scheme of the Department of Family Welfare, 275 000 ha would be allocated for conservation and cultivation of medicinal plants and this would generate 50 million man-days of employment by involving NGOs, federations, societies, cooperatives and individuals.

International market of medicinal plants is over US$60 billion per year, which is growing at the rate of 7 percent. India at present exports herbal material and medicines to the tune of Rs.4.463 billion only, which can be raised to Rs.30 billion by 2005. China and India are the two largest producers of medicinal plants, having more than 40 percent of global biodiversity.

The National Medicinal Plants Board is actively involved in poverty alleviation by way of involving rural people in the cultivation of medicinal plants in the country. During recent past, quite a large number of projects have been funded through contractual farming system by the Board with the involvement of all types of stakeholders associated with the sector. During the last two years the Board has sanctioned 324 projects on different aspects (Table 1) worth Rs.230 million and generating 3 million man-days of employment during the project period.

Table 1. Total projects sanctioned by the National Medicinal Plants Board, 2001-2003


Number of projects


Number of projects

Ex-situ conservation

43

Contractual farming

79

In-situ conservation

16



R&D

36

Promotional (GOs)

67

Extension

24



Demonstration plots/Herbal gardens

17

Promotional (NGOs)

34

Marketing

8



Total for 2001-2002

144

Total for 2002-2003

180

Cultivation of medicinal plants may become an economic activity, which would eventually bring prosperity to the growers.


[13] National Medicinal Plants Board, Chandralok Building, 36-A Janpath Road, New Delhi, India; E-mail: raglubin22@hotmail.com
[14] National Medicinal Plants Board, Chandralok Building, 36-A Janpath Road, New Delhi, India; E-mail: raglubin22@hotmail.com

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