Coimbatore

A tribal women-led initiative to ensure fair price for forest produce

Women belonging to Kattunayakan community at the inauguration of a co-operative initiative in Udhagamandalam on Thursday.

Women belonging to Kattunayakan community at the inauguration of a co-operative initiative in Udhagamandalam on Thursday.

Nine tribal women entrepreneurs have taken the first step towards ensuring sustainable livelihood for their families through the sale of minor forest produce at fair price at Nelakottai in Pandalur taluk.

The women, members of the Kattunayakan community in Achchutham Moola in Kottayamedu, started the Nelakottai Kattunayakan Women’s Cottage Industry Co-operative to sell minor forest produce, including honey, greens, yams, spices, vegetables and medicinal herbs that they harvest from the forests in which they have relied on for many generations.

Speaking to The Hindu , B. Sujatha, a 30-year-old woman belonging to the community who is a part of the initiative, said that they have been taken advantage of by various non-governmental organisations and private entities, who would purchase produce from the community at very low prices. “As many male members of our community are addicted to alcohol, the forest produce the community harvested, including honey, was sold at extremely cheap rates to private individuals,” said Ms. Sujatha.

“As women from the community wanted to earn a livelihood and not depend on our spouses to spend on running the house and supporting our families, we decided to set up the co-operative to ensure that we have collective bargaining rights so that the produce our community gathers receives a fair price,” she added.

Sobha Madhan, a tribal activist from the Kurumba adivasi community, who is also a district co-ordinator of the Nilgiris Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (NPVTG) Federation, along with conservation NGO, Arulagam, is assisting the community in setting up the initiative. “Previously, the community of honey hunters and gatherers of forest produce would be given around ₹200-₹300 for a kg of honey. With the setting up of the co-operative, they stand to make around ₹1,000 for a kg of honey, with the benefits being shared with the community,” she said.

The members, who have launched the initiative hope that it eventually benefits all 58 families living in the hamlet. They added that they will have strict control on the amount of forest produce they gather each year to ensure that the community’s resources are not exploited.

“We have set up the initiative with an aim to ensure that all produce harvested from the forest is done sustainably, and not on a commercial scale. Many times, private entities which collect honey from the forest-dependent communities over-exploit the resources, which we want to avoid at all costs,” said Ms. Sujatha.

On Thursday, officials from the Revenue Department in Gudalur, including the RDO, Saravana Kannan, and Pandalur tahsildar, D. Kuppuraj, inaugurated the project. They assured the members of their assistance in marketing the products in Eco-Development Committee shops across the Nilgiris.


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Printable version | May 19, 2022 11:53:00 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/a-tribal-women-led-initiative-to-ensure-fair-price-for-forest-produce/article38268863.ece