Kerala

A sandalwood success story in Marayur

The tribespeople of Marayur Sandalwood Division engaged in vegetable farming. They get a higher price through the weekly market ‘Chilla' where all items including cattle are sold.  

Marayur Sandalwood Division has turned a role model on how participatory management and sustainable efforts for tribal

empowerment could prevent poaching, theft and illegal activities in a forest division.

Sandalwood theft has considerably dropped over the years with no cases so far registered this year in this regard.

Since the division was created exclusively for the protection of naturally grown sandalwood in 2006, various sustainable livelihood programmes were launched for the tribespeople living in 16 settlements inside the division and nine other settlements in the fringe areas.

Earning power

The aim was to increase the earning power and thereby preventing the tribespeople from falling prey to the sandalwood lobby from outside.

It was found that without local support anti-social elements from outside would not survive, said M.G. Vindokumar, Marayur Range Officer.

The State government in 2006 took up the protection of the reserve with more staff and vehicles provided exclusively to the sandalwood division. By that time, the natural sandalwood reserves had almost disappeared in South India. Sandalwood were either smuggled out or the government itself cleared them in view of the large amount required for their preservation.

Marayur Sandalwood Division faced the highest level of sandalwood theft and poaching from 2001 to 2003 with over hundreds of cases reported each year. In 2005 the High Court of Kerala ordered for the creation of the exclusive reserve and efforts to protect it. Since 2006, the forest related crimes declined simultaneously with the launching of tribal empowerment and livelihood programmes.

“Now 200 forest watchers and 100 permanent staff are employed in the division. The watchers are not only from the tribal communities but also from those on the fringe forest areas,” said Marayur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) B. Ranjith.

As the community participation in preservation efforts increased, they became part of it. In addition it earned them a regular income. Efforts to protect traditional seeds were launched and the farmers inside the forest settlement were given support for cultivating raggi, their staple food and vegetables. A large quantity of vegetables now arrive in the weekly market `Chilla' and are sold at a high price in the auction.

The Forest Department does not intervene in any livelihood or welfare programmes. It is done by the VSS (Vana Samrakshana Samithy) which comprises only the tribespeople.

“It ensured transparency and democratic functioning at the grassroots,'' said Mr Vinodkumar.

The counter measures against sandalwood theft also proved successful with mafias involved in it being booked through a sustained campaign.

All the works connected to the sandalwood division were given to the tribespeople.

56,700 trees

There are 56,700 sandalwood trees in the reserve and they are given geo-tag and a number. When a tree is lost, it is easy now to know the age, details and its location. Every three years, enumeration is done and preservation activities are controlled by a State level monitoring cell.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 10:36:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-sandalwood-success-story-in-marayur/article34628982.ece

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