2.2: The study site
2.3: Description and uses of uppage
2.4: Women's role in traditional uppage collection
2.5: New markets
2.6: Uppage collection
2.7: Processing uppage
2.8: Three collectors' case histories
2.9: Contractors, collection agents and the marketing chain
2.10: Institutional issues and involvement
2.11: Sustaining the resource base, implications for management
2.12: Implications for women
This case study describes the collection and simple processing of uppage, the fruit of an evergreen tree in the south Indian state of Karnataka. The collection of uppage is the traditional occupation of a group of women of a particular Brahmin caste who collect the fruit for its seed and use it to prepare a substitute for ghee (clarified butter). Dried uppage fruit rinds are now experiencing a commercial boom with a growing market in the neighbouring state of Kerala where they are used as a condiment.
This study examines the nature of the transition that takes place when a traditional, locally consumed product develops a new market and new end use. In addition to a substantial increase in the number of people involved in collection and processing, transition leads to a new set of production relations with a chain of intermediaries. Access to produce becomes restricted and workers face a new set of circumstances. The short-lived efforts of a marketing cooperative are also examined.
The study is based in Sirsi and Siddapur, two small talukas3 in the Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka (see map in Figure 1). Both talukas are in the Western Ghats range, with very hilly terrain and patches of residual forest. Some fieldwork was also done in Sagar Taluka in neighbouring Shimoga District.
3 Taluka: an administrative sub-division of a district, similar to a county, composed of many villages or towns.
Eighty-seven villages in the Sirsi-Siddapur Taluka fall within uppage collection blocks. It was assumed that some uppage collection takes place in most of these villages. The majority of these villages are dominated by large farmer households, usually belonging to the Havyak Brahmin caste, many of whom have arecanut (Areca catechu) plantations. In addition to the Havyaks there are a number of other sub-castes of Brahmins, together this high caste group constitutes 26% of the population. Below the Brahmins come the Nayaks who form the largest caste group (32%). Within the Nayak community there is a range of income levels, from rich landowners to poor agricultural labourers. Fifty-five percent of the villages are classified as having scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (SC/ST)4. A small number of muslims also live in Sirsi-Siddapur Taluka. For poor Nayaks and SC/ST villagers, seasonal labour in the fields and plantations of the larger landowners is a major source of income. There are also a number of villages inhabited by Marathis.5 The predominant crop is rice, which is grown in paddies. The second most common is arecanut6.
4 Scheduled castes is the term used to denote a wide variety of low castes formerly known as harijans or untouchables. Scheduled tribes refers to a large number of aboriginal tribal peoples, who also have very low caste or caste-less status in orthodox Hindu culture. Many scheduled caste and scheduled tribe villagers are landless labourers or marginal farmers, often the poorest and most disadvantaged in the region.
5 Marathi speaking people from the neighbouring state of Maharashtra to the north.
6 Arecanut trees are harvested for their nut, a mild stimulant, which is chewed.
This study was prepared based on firsthand observation, discussions, meetings and interviews with uppage collectors, agents and buyers.
Uppage (pronounced 'oopahjey') is the most commonly used name of Garcinia cambogia, a medium sized (10 m) evergreen tree, which grows in tropical moist evergreen, semi-evergreen, and wet temperate forest types in Southern India. In Karnataka, uppage is found in the forests of Sirsi, Siddapur, Honnavar, Yellapur, and Sagar within Uttara Kannada and Shimoga Districts. Occasionally uppage trees grow along road sides, in residual forest patches and on wastelands around villages.
An uppage tree
Figure 1 - Case study sites in Karnataka
The term uppage also refers to the fruits, drupes from 3-5 cm in diameter, which turn from green to yellowish-red when ripe. Uppage fruits ripen in the monsoon season, from June to August. They are collected primarily during that period. Because uppage fruit production has a two-year cycle, yields vary from year to year considerably. The seeds of uppage have a 30% fat content and are used locally to produce a substitute for ghee (clarified butter). The dried fruit rind is the chief commercial product. Uppage rinds are also used as a condiment in the preparation of fish curries because they are very acidic (up to 10.6% tartaric acid and 1.5% phosphoric acid). The fruits are edible but they are too acidic to be eaten raw and are now valued more for their dried rind.
Uppage rind has a number of other uses. It is used for vinegar preparation; as a substitute for acetic and formic acid in the coagulation of rubber latex; and for polishing gold and silver. It also has medicinal qualities; for example, the rind decoction is used for rheumatic and bowel complaints, in veterinary medicine for mouth diseases of cattle.
Uppage seeds have traditionally been collected and processed by women of the Havyak Brahmin caste. The collection of the seeds during the monsoon season is linked to the use of the ghee in the preparation of sweets during Diwali, the religious festival that follows the monsoons. Most uppage ghee is consumed by the family. It is however, occasionally sold at the local level at a price which is one or two Rupees7 higher than ordinary ghee made from milk. This is because of the labour involved in collection and extraction. In the past, few people outside of the Havyak community used the ghee because it has an unusual flavour and smell. The uppage rind was traditionally discarded after the removal of the seed.
7 1 US Dollar = 16.50 Rupees, 1989.
1 US Dollar = 22.70 Rupees, 1987.
The new market for uppage rind as a condiment substituting for tamarind in fish curries in Kerala developed in the last ten years. It has been popular there for many years because it helps lend a desired sour flavour to fish preparations. Uppage trees are often grown around homesteads in Kerala.
Businessmen from Kerala originally came to Uttara Kannada willing to pay for uppage rind which could be smuggled into their state. In 1981, at the behest of a businessman from Kerala, a local contractor who specialized in the collection and sale of non-timber forest products (NTFP)8, requested a separate contract from the forest department for uppage collection in the Sirsi-Siddapur area. The request was granted and the forest department began to officially auction collection rights to uppage separately. Before this, uppage had been lumped with other NTFPs and the quantities that were collected were comparatively insignificant.
8 Non-timber forest products (NTFP) are known collectively as minor forest products, or MFPs in India. The collection of commercially valuable NTFPs is controlled by the forest department through the auctioning of collection rights for specific products in specified areas.
As a result of the link with the Kerala market, collection of uppage rind has become an important seasonal economic activity for increasing numbers of villagers. What was once the traditional activity of Havyak Brahmin women has become economically attractive to women from other caste and class groups, and to growing numbers of men. Uppage collection now offers many women a more convenient means of seasonal self-employment; even though it coincides with the rice paddy transplanting season (which peaks in July-August), when jobs are readily available. Village women the case study team interviewed said that more money could be made collecting uppage fruits in good yield years, than could be earned working as temporary field labourers transplanting rice. Uppage collection has the added benefit of fitting into a flexible schedule. In good years some women reported that they could make as much in half a day of uppage collection as they could working all day in the fields. With increased collection of the rind, more women have also begun extracting ghee from the seeds. Total production of both ghee and rind has substantially increased as new markets have developed.
Employment/income from uppage collection
Uppage fruits are collected during the monsoon months (June to September) from forest lands or from residual forest patches known as betta9 lands. Men, women, and children from most caste and class groups now collect uppage. Women, especially from the Havyak Brahmin and Nayak castes, form the most important group of uppage collectors. Male involvement in uppage collection is inversely related to ownership of assets, especially land. Marathi women process uppage rind, produce uppage ghee and are skilled in other forest-based processing activities such as honey extraction, cane weaving and bamboo basketry. They do not, however, collect uppage fruits from the forest. In Marathi villages all forest-based collection is done by men alone as a secondary source of income when they are not engaged in primary agricultural activities. This leaves Marathi women dependent on their men for their raw material. As uppage collection becomes more viable as a seasonal activity, men are increasingly involved, especially landless poor.
9 Betta lands, a unique feature of Karnataka's agro-ecosystems, are patches of natural forest linked to agricultural land, especially arecanut (Areca catechu) plantations. These betta forests are earmarked by the government for the collection of green manure/fodder and other usufruct rights, usually by adjacent agriculturalists (Campbell 1986).
In the villages visited, the research team was informed that at least one women from each household collected uppage during the season. The wealthier Havyak Brahmin women have access to uppage trees on their arecanut orchards and betta lands, while others must search in the forests.
Normally fruits are collected after they have fallen to the ground ripe or from their branches using long sticks with a hook on one end. Notched logs are tied to trees permanently and used as steps. As competition for uppage increases, new collection methods, practiced most noticeably by men, are threatening the resource base. Instead of waiting for fruits to ripen, some men lop tree branches or even fell trees to get unripe fruit before it falls naturally and is collected by someone else. Most women do not collect in this manner because custom discourages them from climbing trees. However, some wealthy women pay labourers up to 15 Rs/day to climb uppage trees, cut off branches and collect the green fruits.
Village women leave early in the morning for the forests, usually in groups of three or four. They carry small baskets, and wear a blanket thrown over their heads and back to protect them from the frequent rain. The blankets also serve as additional containers for surplus fruit. Some of the women return home by noon to do other chores or work on something else for the rest of the day. The others return before nightfall. Collecting uppage in the forest is hard work during the monsoon, when conditions are wet and slippery, and leaches are a continual nuisance.
The amount of uppage that is collected varies with the yield. The research team found that even in a low yield year approximately 0.75 kg of uppage could be collected in two hours or 3 kg/day given an eight hour work day. In peak years, a family of seven has been known to collect as much as 1 quintal10 per day, which works out to 1.7 kg/hour/person. In 1985-87, in spite of smuggling from the area, one contractor who had purchased the tender rights, reportedly purchased 480 tons of uppage from the Sirsi-Siddapur divisions alone. Taking the low-yield year figure of 3 kg/day, this works out to 160,000 person days over a two year period, or 80,000 person days of employment per year. Given a 60-day collection season, at least 1300 people were employed collecting uppage that year. Many uppage collectors work only periodically, often for a half day or less, so it is likely that actual numbers of uppage collectors are considerably higher. According to one estimate, the total availability of uppage in the Uttara Kannada and Sagar areas is 1,000 tons, which implies that there is potential for 330,000 person days of employment.
10 One quintal = 100 kilograms
The price that is paid to collectors varies from Rs 3 to Rs 8/kg of dried uppage. At the start of the season contractors pay only Rs 3 or Rs 4/kg. But, as the season draws to a close, the price for one kg rises to Rs 8 and more. Wealthier collectors are sometimes able to collect and store the dried uppage, taking advantage of these higher prices. They sometimes even wait until the season ends or the next calendar year before they sell their dried rind. However, poor villagers, especially the landless and marginal farmers, exchange their dried uppage for cash or kind immediately after a few kilos are ready.
New processing technologies
Uppage ghee resembles another locally produced butter substitute made from the seeds of the kokum (Garcinia indica), another species in the same genus. A faint yellowish tinge distinguishes uppage ghee from the whiter ghee produced from milk. Once the sticky seeds have been collected they are mixed in ash and stored outside homes in small mounds. With the approach of Diwali in October, the seeds are uncovered and fried. Then they are beaten to remove the outer shells and the seeds are ground with hot water. This solution is boiled until the ghee floats to the surface of the water and the ghee is ready for use in frying festival sweets and other delicacies. This whole process can be done at home on a very small scale and requires only labour and time.
Traditionally uppage rinds were discarded during this process. With the development of a market for rinds, uppage ghee has become merely a by-product.
Once uppage rind has been collected, it needs to be dried immediately to prevent it from rotting. Drying is done in the household, in a specially made fireplace or over the hearth. A fire is made in a hole in the center of a specially constructed square space on the floor. Above the fire, about 1 metre from the floor, hangs a mat made of coconut leaves and thin bamboo strips (see Figure 1). On this mat, the wet, mushy uppage rind is slowly dried for a period of 24 to 36 hours until it obtains a charcoal black hue and acquires a smoky smell. This smoking process gives the rind the desirable flavour. The fire is kept alive through the night, simultaneously drying the collectors' wet blanket capes, keeping the household members warm and smoking the rind.
Fruit that is collected green is boiled until it softens to a mushy consistency. Then it is dried in the usual way. The dry rind that is processed from green fruits lacks the flavour of ripened fruit rind.
When drying is inadequate, rind is often attacked by a fungus which coats it with a white colour. The rind then has to be boiled and re-dried continuously until the white colour disappears; this makes the process much more time consuming and tedious. In some cases black powder from battery cells is used to cover the fungus-attacked rind. Adulteration like this is not only duplicitous, it is also extremely harmful and dangerous. A less serious subterfuge is delivering processed uppage when there is heavy rainfall; the heavier, soaked rinds bring in more income.
UPPAGE BEING DRIED ON A MAT IN A
The fuelwood which is used is also collected from the forests. A considerable amount of fuelwood is used to dry uppage rind. However, since fuelwood is collected freely from the forests, no monetary value is attached to its use. A closer look needs to be taken at the actual amount of fuel that is consumed for uppage drying versus the amount normally utilized for monsoon heating and drying. In most houses a fire is kept burning continuously during the monsoon to dry wet clothing and keep the chill off. This is particularly beneficial to the elderly.
1. The dried seeds are fried
in the pan
2. The fried seeds are then
3. The finely pounded seeds
are then put in boiling water and the mixture is stirred till the ghee floats to
Once the uppage rind reaches Kerala, salt is added to the dried rind, increasing the weight by 10-15%. The salt not only acts as a preservative, it also ensures that less uppage rind per kg is sold.
- Uppage trees grow in forest and betta lands
- Collectors gather fallen fruits or harvest green fruits
- Collectors gather fuelwood
- Fruit is processed in home driers on mats over fires
- Seeds separated from rind, ghee produced as a by-product
- Dried rinds collected by village agent
- Contractor collects rind from village agents
- Uppage transported to Kerala wholesale markets
- Wholesalers add 15% salt
- Wholesalers sell to retailers
- Retailers sell to user
- User adds salted rinds to fish preparations
Uppage rind used as tamarind substitute
The collection and processing of uppage are simple operations, easily accomplished on a local household level. However, the quality of the dried uppage varies, the quantity that can be processed at one time is limited and the process may waste fuelwood.
In response to these issues, as well as to the adulteration of fungus infected rind and the use of green fruits, the State Forestry Department has developed an experimental, multipurpose dryer. At the request of the Deputy Conservator of Forests, a local landlord in the village of Janmane, within the study area, designed a 22 ft x 10 ft one-room dryer. The dryer cost Rs 30,000 to build and has compartments for 336 drying trays, a drying capacity of about half a ton of uppage at a time. Two pipelines, connected to a wood burning stove, pass through the room to a chimney, distributing heat. It is claimed that this dryer uses considerably less fuel per kg of dried rind than is currently used in home processing fires. The dryer is multipurpose in that it can also be used for processing other forest products such as cardamom and wild nutmeg. If the dryer experiment is successful, the forest department envisions a system in which a network of these dryers will be built in key uppage producing areas and its facilities popularized among the uppage collectors, the regional cardamom growers and wild nutmeg collectors.
Two important qualities of dried uppage, its smoky flavour and black colour, are direct results of the traditional processing method that uses an open fire. It is unclear whether these characteristics can be produced in the new dryer, even if the dryer is advantageous in other ways. The question of fuelwood savings and the many implications of centralized processing on the small collector, will be discussed in a later section.
In order to gain a better understanding of the role of uppage collection in the individual lives of Karnataka's women, three brief case histories of women living in an uppage producing village in Siddapur are provided.
Case history 1:
Kamala is a young, vivacious 25 year old mother of three. She lives in the village of Birlamakhe. Her husband works as a labourer with the Public Works Department earning Rs 300 per month. Kamala works as a labourer in an Areca plantation, earning Rs 8 per day including lunch and tea. During the slack season she works for the Forest Department planting saplings, digging pits and trenching. She also undertakes this kind of heavy labour for local landlords.
If the uppage yield is good Kamala collects uppage every day
for at least a month. She finds the work arduous but worthwhile. She can collect
up to 2 kg of uppage in an 8 hour day walking five or six km in the process. In
1986 she collected 40 kg which she sold for Rs 4/kg. Her only regret is that her
need for money forces her to sell the uppage as soon as it is dried, rather than
stocking it as richer people do, to be able to sell at a higher price.
Ganapi is a 50 year old Nayak women who lives in a small thatched house in the all-Nayak village, Surgal. Ganapi has no children of her own but she shares her home with 5 other members of her joint family including her husband who is an alcoholic. Her family has no arable land. They earn their livelihood as agricultural labourers. Ganapi works in a neighbouring areca plantation in the summer months and on paddy fields during the monsoon. The rest of the year she is only marginally employed, spending much of her time making mats out of echalu grass which she sells for Rs 20 per mat.
Ganapi has collected uppage from the forests surrounding her village for the last five years. If the uppage yield is good she forgoes agricultural work in the peak paddy transplanting season. Instead she sets out each morning at about 8:30 a.m. alone or with a few women. She throws a blanket-like cape over her shoulders and carries a wicker basket in her hand. Although she passes through betta lands she is careful not to collect uppage, as she has no traditional rights to the land. Once in the hilly evergreen forest she may cover two or three kilometers searching for soft fallen uppage fruits and seeds.
In 1986, a good yield year, Ganapi collected 1 quintal (100
kg) of uppage which she sold to the local landlord/agent for Rs 6/kg. She used
this money to buy herself clothes and utensils. Ganapi had no objection to large
uppage dryers and standardized trade.
Case history 3:
Omi is a 65 year old Marathi woman from the village of Marathikoppa, which is entirely inhabited by Marathis. She is a spokeswomen for Marathis, a minority in the state. Omi lives in a clean little thatched house with her son, his wife and their children. The family owns a small plot of land which they cultivate. They also work for the local landlord as agricultural labourers. Omi spends most of the year making mats and bamboo baskets which she sells to Seva Sagar Sanga, a local society which markets the products.
Omi rarely ventures out of the village. The Marathi men
collect uppage; Omi and the rest of the women help process the rinds and produce
other NTFPs. The Marathi women also began to extract and use uppage ghee five
years ago when collection became popular. Omi learned the art of ghee extraction
from women in neighbouring villages and the local landlord's family. In
Marathikoppa all the uppage and other collected NTFPs are sold to the local
landlord/agent, to whom almost every household owes money. Uppage sometimes
helps repay loans or buy provisions, for the landlord is also the local
Wholesale and retail marketing
With the initiation of bidding for collection rights in 1981 in Sirsi and Siddapur, and in 1983 in the Sagar Division, NTFP (non-timber forest products) contractors began to view uppage as a distinct product. The first contractor to win an uppage contract, Mr. Krishnan11, approached the Forest Department and requested that uppage be offered separately. Krishnan's first bid came in under the minimum upset price12 fixed by the Forest Department. In the second round he offered Rs 1,500 and was awarded the first two-year contract for the right to collect uppage in the Sirsi Siddapur forest divisions. Krishnan was initially offered Rs 10/kg by a businessman in Kerala, who gave him an advance of Rs 10,000 to get started. Krishnan managed to sell 1800 kg at this rate, making a 50% profit. However, the businessmen pulled out and Krishnan, who had borrowed heavily to stockpile uppage, was forced to settled for much lower profits on his later sales. He is believed to have made as little as 25 paise (Rs 0.25) per kg, but sold about 200,000 kg worth of uppage between 1981-84.
11 The names of all the persons referred to in the text have been changed and fictitious names are used, simply to help identify different individuals.
12 Upset price is the term used for the minimum acceptable bid and represents the value placed on the resource by the Forest Department.
Collection rights for most NTFPs including uppage, are normally awarded for two-year periods, partly due to the cyclical nature of production. They are auctioned publicly to the highest bidder and are almost exclusively awarded to private businessman. For uppage collection this has not always been true. For the 1985-1987 period, uppage collection rights were given to a cooperative, the Bakkal Society. The cooperative experiment, an effort to exclude intermediaries, was not successful enough to continue. The failure of the cooperative experiment, because it greatly affected women and other poor collectors, will be examined in more detail in a later section. In recent years the uppage collection contract has been heavily contested. The competition has increased the price of uppage collection rights (see TABLE 2). One contractor, who wants to diversify uppage processing, has a virtually monopoly over uppage in Karnataka.
Table 2 - Revenue earned by the government from uppage contracts in Sirsi-Siddapur for the years 1981-89 (ISST 1987a)
SOURCE: ISST 1987a
Contractors who obtain uppage contracts and villagers who collect uppage are brought together by intermediary agents. These wealthy villagers have established themselves as NTFP collection facilitators. Because these village agents are often the local shopkeepers, landlords, money lenders or traders who supply necessities to the collectors, payments are often adjusted against outstanding debts or credits, maintaining a cycle of dependency. Uppage collectors are often agricultural labourers, employed by the trader-cum-landlord; this facilitates payment in kind. Uppage is also sometimes used to make payments on loans provided by the intermediary.
When a contractor wins an uppage contract, he meets with agents and asks them to inform collectors and begin to buy rind. The contractor specifies the price he is willing to pay villagers for each kilogram collected. Figure 2 shows two advertisements that were placed in local papers in 1989 to attract agents and to warn against illicit collection by the former contractor. For organizing collection the contractor pays the agent a commission of Rs 0.50/kg received.
Village agents usually organize uppage collection personally
from villages within a radius of six to seven miles from their home. They
sometimes engage sub-agents to organize collection in interior villages.
Sub-agents receive Rs 0.20 of the Rs 0.50 commission earned by the agent. The
agents often stock uppage until prices rise. One agent was able to continue
purchasing uppage after the Bakkal Society stopped buying it. He stocked uppage
until later in the year and made an additional Rs 3/kg. Table 3 illustrates the
estimated earnings of several village uppage agents.
Amount of Uppage collected (1986)
at Rs 0.50/kg
at Rs 0.30/kg
Bilgi (agent 1)
Bilgi (agent 2)
SOURCE: ISST 1987a
The physical distance from the collection area to the markets in Kerala, and the difficulty in establishing links to buyers in the retail market, make it very difficult for village collectors to do without middlemen.
The uppage market, like any other free market adjusts itself to the forces of supply and demand. During the peak collection period of July and August, the price offered by the contractors usually ranges from Rs 4 to Rs 5 per kg of dried uppage collected. However, later in the year, to bring out all the hidden supply, the price is raised. The contractor even comes to the uppage area, collects the uppage stocked with the agents and sometimes goes to each house to collect the uppage.
The uppage that is collected in this way from local villagers is transported by truck to wholesale markets in Kerala. It is sold to wholesalers. These wholesalers either come to Karnataka to collect it and pay approximately Rs 10/kg, or they pay about Rs 15/kg for the uppage, transport, collection and processing. If any of the uppage is fungus infected, it is redried and sold as second quality uppage.
The retail markets for uppage in Kerala are concentrated in the Trivandrum, Trichur, Ernakulam, and Allepey (Kayamkulam) districts. At the retail outlets uppage is available for Rs 20/kg. The retailer is known to retain a 20-30% profit margin. The retail rate is even known to rise to Rs 25/kg. In other retail centers, for example in Bangalore, uppage costs, on average, Rs 35/kg.
If one person undertook all the marketing operations the profit after sale would be a phenomenal 200%.
As of 1988, one contractor had a monopoly on all the uppage collection in Karnataka. This raises real concerns about whether fair prices for uppage are assured. The contractor had plans to build a factory in Sirsi to process the uppage and manufacture sauces and concentrates for export all over the country. A factory may increase uppage prices to ensure a steady supply. It may also create new jobs. But will it really benefit the women involved in collection?
Without exception, the middlemen in this chain are male. Women remain at the lowest rung of the economic ladder, tied to the low fixed price offered them for the dried rind regardless of the eventual profit the rind may bring.
The price of 1kg. uppage from
tree to table
This is a model of uppage production and trade. The number of rupees that are indicated are only possible figures. They do not take into account costs other than payment to lower links in the chain. The numbers in parentheses indicate money received. The numbers along the lines of exchange are the amounts paid to lower links in the chain (i.e. the wholesaler pays the contractor 11.5 Rs/kg of uppage).
SOURCE: ISST 1988
The role of government agencies
Cooperative collection of uppage
Karnataka continues to auction many of the NTFP's collection rights to private contractors. The practice is changing as many states nationalize high value NTFPs and collect the products through government run organizations or give rights to specific cooperative groups13. The Forest Department is also involved in policing the forests to ensure that all collection is legal. Beyond this, governmental intervention varies. Individual forest officers have initiated projects such as the experimental dryer and the Bakkal Society cooperative term as contractor in Sirsi-Siddapur. The Sirsi-Siddapur Forest Division has also initiated an uppage planting program as part of their afforestation efforts.
13 Access to NTFP for collection varies from state to state. In Andhra Pradesh the collection and trade of tendu leaves for bidis is carried out by the state, while other NTFPs have been given as a monopoly to the Girijan Cooperative Corporation, Ltd., Vishakhapatnam. Tendu leaves and oil seeds from: sal (Shorea robusta), karanj (Pongamia pinnata), mahua (Madhuca indica), and kusum (Schleichera trijuga), are both nationalized in Bihar. The Forest Development Corporation processes the oil seeds and works in collaboration with Large Agricultural Multipurpose Societies (LAMPS) and other agencies, whose members gather the seeds. Gujarat has a Gujarat Forest Development Corporation which procures tendu leaves, mahua flowers and seeds, gums and other NTFPs on a monopoly basis. NTFPs in Madhya Pradesh such as tendu leaves, sal seeds, harra (Terminalia chebula) myrobalans and five varieties of gums are all nationalized and their trade is the monopoly of the state. In Orissa some items are collected by the Forest Department but marketed by the Orissa Forest Corporation. In the tribal areas in Rajasthan, tribal villages have been given a monopoly over the collection of NTFPs like grasses, gums, fruits and medicinal plants, through the Tribal Area Development Federation.
Uppage collection is a small component of the overall NTFP picture, both in Karnataka and in India as a whole. There are a number of other government institutions involved in other larger scale NTFP activities. The Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for instance, has state level organizations that offer both technical and financial support to small-scale industries.
The Bakkal Society, which started as a Primary Agricultural Cooperative Society in 1942, has two branch offices and 210 members from different classes and castes. Its activities include retail supply of consumer goods, marketing milk and areca, and supplying credit both in cash and kind.
In 1985, the Bakkal Society managed to obtain the rights to uppage collection in the Sirsi-Siddapur Forest Division. The local forest chief was instrumental in giving the cooperative this opportunity without going through the normal auction procedure, for the price was only Rs 2 higher than the previous two-year contract. This official was later chastised by irate private contractors who wanted to bid for the collection rights.
The Bakkal Society intended to assign responsibility for uppage collection to its members (in their villages) and ask 69 other cooperatives in and around Sirsi to have their members do the same. The idea was that the Society would collect uppage from its members and sell dried uppage directly to buyers from Kerala. The system attempted to eliminate middlemen so that their commission could be part of the collectors' payment and in the long run, a means of strengthening the collective bargaining power of the uppage gatherers. Unfortunately, the system fell apart at the outset because the 69 other cooperatives failed to help organize collection. Lack of interest, information and the necessary skills may have all contributed. The presence of well established village NTFP agents in the area may also have softened the Society's resolve to work through the cooperatives alone. Ultimately, in many villages, the same intermediaries continued to control local collection.
The agents in different villages, whether society members or the same middlemen, motivated villagers to collect uppage and paid them a rate fixed by the Society. The agents in turn got a commission of Rs 0.50/kg from the Society.
For the two year contract period the Bakkal Society only made a profit of Rs 46,000, just over Rs 20,000 a year. This wasn't considered enough to support the undertaking and collection rights reverted to open auction. A number of other factors clearly also contributed to the failure of the Bakkal Society's efforts: resistance from established marketing networks, competition from smugglers, wastage and additional cost due to fungus-infected, improperly dried uppage.
The Society faced united resistance from wholesale suppliers in Kerala who had collected uppage from the contractors in Karnataka. This meant that the Bakkal Society had to transport their uppage to Kerala themselves and find a market for the rind there. In their first contract year, 1985-86, 22 truck loads had to be taken to Kerala. In the second year, only 16 trucks were sent as the contractor who was to establish a monopoly on the trade within the year, stepped-in and bought 13 truck loads. Rival contractors also began to exert political pressure, leveling allegations against the forest department officer who had sanctioned the cooperative's contract. Lack of cooperation from wholesale buyers increased operating costs and limited profits. Smugglers, alleged to be employed by rival contractors from neighbouring forest divisions, were credited with removal of 50% of the uppage from the Division, reducing the quantity collected by the Bakkal Society.
Much of the uppage the Bakkal Society collected was improperly or insufficiently dried and their storage space was inadequate. Consequently, 60,000 kg of uppage were lost because of fungus. Damaged uppage has to be redried and sold as second quality rind at a much reduced price (Rs 6.75/kg as opposed to Rs 10.15/kg for first quality, January 1987).
It does not appear that women, who constituted the majority of the collectors, had any significant role running and managing the cooperative during its brief tenure as an uppage contractor. In fact, production relationships between local village agents and collectors appear to have remained unaltered, even when the cooperative society assumed the function of uppage contractor. In fact, the Secretary of the cooperative later accepted employment with the major contractor! It is still unclear if removal of the intermediaries would benefit collectors.
As uppage collection increases, serious questions arise as to the sustainability of the resource base. Better data are needed on the distribution and number of uppage trees, their ecology, and the amount of fuelwood consumed for uppage drying before accurate assessments of resource degradation can be made. It is clear that new patterns of collection, including lopping branches and cutting down trees to harvest green fruit, can only increase pressure on resources. The case of the halmaddi tree, tapped for use in preparation of incense, illustrates the effects of over-utilization. Indiscriminate tapping has killed many of these trees; the Forest Department has banned extraction of this NTFP completely.
To ensure sustainable yield of any forest product, proper utilization and adequate regeneration need to be assured. In Sirsi-Siddapur some attempts are being made to regenerate uppage trees, mostly through enrichment planting. The Deputy Conservator of Forests is dealing sternly with those cases of uppage tree felling that come to his attention. Villagers indicate that people are slowly realizing the tremendous loss that can result from felling to collect fruit. Effective protection depends, however, upon people's participation, which is linked to equitable distribution of benefits and a clear definition of usufruct rights. In the long run, the greater the degree of personal involvement in the management of a resource, the greater the care bestowed on that resource.
Longer term contracts, i.e. 10 year rights as opposed to 2-year intervals, with royalty rates negotiable every 2 years, is one way to encourage greater stewardship and ensure supply over a longer time period. The problem with long tenure is the potential for abuse, particularly if a monopoly is held over collection rights. If such a long contract were arranged, the Forest Department would need to take steps to protect the interests of the villagers. A minimum rate (renegotiable every other year) for uppage collection and sale would have to be fixed by the government. It is dangerous to assume that a 10-year contract automatically assures better harvesting regimes. The government would also need to retain the right to withdraw the contract if it noted widespread uppage tree felling.
Alternatively, it might be possible to subdivide the divisions further and auction rights to smaller user groups and cooperatives. However, it is unclear whether limiting usufruct rights to certain communities, as is the case with betta lands, would protect the resource or merely reduce the benefits to a few? Is it realistic to lay the blame for extractive harvesting on the increasing number of men involved? Some women seem equally to blame for paying men to lop branches. More research and data are needed in order to answer these questions. If commercialization continues to increase the demand for uppage fruits from the region, answers will be needed.
The second sustainability issue revolves around the use of fuelwood in the drying process. Better data are needed both on consumption per kg of uppage dried versus fuelwood used for monsoon drying and heating and on the amount of green wood versus dead wood used in the drying process. These data can help determine the actual likelihood of fuelwood reductions with the new dryer. The new dryer may increase total consumption. A larger stove or furnace, requiring larger pieces of fuelwood might also lead to lopping of larger limbs or actual tree felling; the fuel that is currently used in home processing is predominantly dead and collected. The size and considerable cost of commercial dryers raise additional concerns. What about a more efficient single family dryer? Improved stoves (smokeless chulas), locally known as astravales are becoming more popular. Do smokeless chulas, with their closed chimneys, make drying impossible? There may be ways to modify improved stoves so that they also function as uppage dryers. As uppage is collected during the monsoon season, sun drying does not seem to be a viable option.
Another environmental issue is the adulteration of uppage that has been attacked by fungus. The use of battery acid to disguise the white color produced by the fungus and save the time and money involved in re-boiling and re-drying, raises serious health questions, even if only practiced on a small scale. Drying requirements and storage facilities need to be regulated, and people need to be informed of these rules and procedures.
The commercialization of uppage collection and processing has considerable implications for women.
Increased markets have certainly increased the number of regional employment opportunities. In a good harvest season women can earn a daily wage in a half day of collection. This is more practical given the many other household and economic activities women need to accomplish on a daily basis. As evidence of this increased opportunity, many women (and men) from communities other than Havyak Brahmins have entered the collection process. More and more women of the Nayak community now collect uppage, and Marathi women process both uppage rind and seed which their men collect for them. It is not clear that increased uppage collection has created employment where none existed because the uppage season coincides with the traditional paddy transplanting season which has always provided employment opportunities. However, alternative employment and additional employment that is more suitable to women has been generated.
More men are now collecting uppage and men occupy the all of the trading and marketing positions, where maximum profits can be made. The extent to which men will take over uppage collection if it becomes more profitable needs to be examined. Even if women continue to collect, they may be relegated to the lowest economic rung. They may never be able to earn more than the minimum daily wage unless they obtain a larger percentage of the profits. Additional means need to be explored to reduce the middlemen between collection and sale to wholesalers. Aside from the profit mark-up, middlemen too often retain excessive financial control over collectors' lives. Cooperatives are ideally suited to perform this role. Yet the Bakkal Society, which had to battle an entrenched market system and a solidarity among traders, was not able to function. While the Bakkal societies difficulty's went beyond gender issues, their is clearly a need to include women if they are to benefit from future cooperative experiments.
As long as processing remains a simple, home-based activity, women should be able to continue to dry uppage. But the possible advent of large, room size dryers carries with it the threat that their operation will be controlled by men. Dryers create a number of other complications. Centralized processing under the control of the forest department or an individual, like a village agent, would reduce women and other collectors to a simple gathering role. Were the forest department to operate the dryer villagers would have to carry collected uppage to the dryer and then transport the dried uppage to the village agent. Villagers feel it is unlikely that their uppage could be kept separately before and after drying or that the costs of building and operating the dryer would allow them to be paid the same amount for their uppage as if they had dried it themselves. Instead, they would probably deliver unprocessed uppage rind to the dryer, earning less than before. If village groups jointly owned a dryer and operated it themselves some of the potential problems might be eliminated.
More research is needed to determine the feasibility of developing dryer technology. Better projections of uppage supply per ha and dryer versus hearth fuel efficiency is needed. Given the seasonal nature of uppage collection and processing, any new drier technology would need to have additional off-season uses. It may be possible to modify improved stoves to produce a household-sized dryer that conserves fuel and increases efficiency at the site where processing is currently done.
The proposal for an industrial uppage processing plant may have implications for women. A local industry could open new markets with new uppage products, creating greater demand. However, factory settings with their potentially steady source of income, typically attract men. Increasingly complicated technology, as will be seen in the next case study, often favours men over women. It is possible that the increasing organization that is entailed in establishing a factory, might result in more centrally organized collection by contractors and/or factory owners using full-time employees rather than casual village collectors. As with the improved dryers, however, it is unlikely that the value added will go to village women who collect and dry; it will probably go to the industrialist or contractor.