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Bamboo Laws Could Create New Source of Income for Impoverished Villagers in India

In a development that SFG says could "provide new sources of income for millions of poor that live off forests in the coming years," forest dwellers in India are now legally able to collect and sell bamboo.
The new rule is the result of the Ministry of Environment and Forests recently issuing a directive to state governments to "officially recognize bamboo as 'minor forest produce'" instead of "timber... which gave state government the right to collect and sell bamboo exclusively."
"Minor forest produce‟ includes everything valuable in a forest, except timber, that can be utilized."
"In 2006, the establishment of the Forest Rights Act provided villages with communal ownership of forest produce, and rights to sell it for profit. This act also defined in detail what constituted „minor forest produce‟, and included bamboo in the list. However, for the most part, this amendment only existed on paper. The aim of the present directive is to ensure that villagers do not face any trouble while collecting, selling or using the bamboo to make other products (such as furniture)."

Implications:

"In India, an estimated 100 million people currently live on land that is classified as forest. Of these, most are impoverished and many belong to tribal and backward communities. Close to 275 million people make their living off forest resources in some way or the other. Many small farmers use forest produce as a means of supplementing their income. Given its enormous profitability, being able to collect and sell bamboo will benefit millions of impoverished people in the coming years."

"It is likely that villagers in the coming years will require a lot of assistance in selling bamboo directly to industry at fair prices, or in making various products with them for sale. For example, in the Dang district of Gujarat, a system is being carved out through which the local government or the Gram Sabha will ensure that all profits generated are shared by the villagers, with forestry officials overseeing the process."

"However, the greater impediments to bamboo becoming a source of income to poor people in the coming years will actually lie in the implementation. Primarily, in order for villagers to have access to bamboo (as well as other minor forest produce like tendu leaves), they must first lay claim to the forest areas that surround their villages. As of February 2011, 51,500 community claims had been filed, of which only 3669 have been given titles. Upon receiving a title, villagers must then apply for and secure transit passes that will allow them to collect and then remove minor forest produce from the forest areas. The slow speed of receiving claims and passes could impede the development of this trend.

"Unless villagers are educated on the sustainable extraction of bamboo, it is possible that there will be over extraction within a few years."

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Sources:

SFG June 2011, page 2:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG_June 2011.pdf#page=2