The Most Innovative Things Happening With Van Dhan

The initiative aims to promote MFPs-centric livelihood development of tribal gatherers and artisans. It mainstreams the tribal community by promoting primary level value addition to MFP at the grassroots level. Significance: Through this initiative, the share of tribals in the value chain of Non-Timber Forest Produce is expected to rise from the present 20% to around 60%.

About Van Dhan Vikas Kendras initiative: The initiative aims to promote MFPs-centric livelihood development of tribal gatherers and artisans. It mainstreams the tribal community by promoting primary level value addition to MFP at the grassroots level. Significance: Through this initiative, the share of tribals in the value chain of Non-Timber Forest Produce is expected to rise from the present 20% to around 60%. Implementation: The scheme will be implemented through the Ministry of Tribal Affairs as Nodal Department at the Central Level and TRIFED as Nodal Agency at the National Level. At the State level, the State Nodal Agency for MFPs and the District collectors are envisaged to play a pivot role in scheme implementation at the grassroots level. Locally the Kendras are proposed to be managed by a Managing Committee (an SHG) consisting of representatives of Van Dhan SHGs in the cluster. Composition: As per the plan, TRIFED will facilitate the establishment of MFP-led multi-purpose Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, a cluster of 10 SHGs comprising of 30 tribal MFP gatherers each, in the tribal areas.

Minor Forest Produce and tribal livelihoods

Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a major source of livelihood for tribals living in forest areas. The importance of MFPs for this section of society can be gauged from the fact that around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFPs for food, shelter, medicines, and cash income. It provides them critical subsistence during the lean seasons, particularly for primitive tribal groups such as hunter-gatherers, and the landless. Tribals derive 20-40% of their annual income from MFP on which they spend the major portion of their time. This activity has a strong linkage to women’s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used/sold by women. The MFP sector has the potential to create about 10 million workdays annually in the country.

Highlights of Van Dhan Initiative

At the unit level, aggregation of produce would be done by SHGs having about 30 members each forming Van Dhan Vikas ‘Samuh’. The SHGs would also undertake primary value addition of the MFPs using equipment such as small cutting and sieving tools, decorticator, dryer, packaging tool, etc based on MFPs available in the area. A typical Van Dhan Vikas Samuh would have the following facilities:

Provision for required building/ infrastructure support to be established in one of the beneficiary’s houses/ part of house or Government/ gram panchayat building. Equipment/ Tool Kit comprising of equipment such as small cutting and sieving tools, decorticator, dryer, packaging tool, etc. based on MFPs available in the area. Fully equipped training facilities for a batch of 30 trainees with provision for raw material for training purposes and supply of trainee kits (comprising of the bag, scrubbing pad, pen, brochures, training manual, booklet, etc).

Provisioning of working capital for the SHGs through a tie-up with financial institutions, banks, NSTFDC, etc. A cluster of ten such SHGs within the same village shall form a Van Dhan Vikas Kendra. Subject to successful operations of the Samus in a Kendra, common infrastructure facilities (pucca Kendra) may be provided to the Kendra in the next phase in terms of building, warehouse, etc. for use of the same members. An illustrative list of major MFPs which may be covered under the initiative is tamarind, mahua flower, mahua seed, hill broom, chironjee, honey, sal seed, sal leaves, bamboo split, myrobalan, mango (amchur), aonla (churan/candy), seed lac, Tez patta, cardamom, black pepper, turmeric, dry ginger, cinnamon, coffee, tea, sea buckthorn tea, etc. Apart from these, any other MFP with potential for value addition may be included.

Implementation of the scheme

Under Van Dhan, 10 Self Help Groups of 30 Tribal gatherers are constituted. The establishment of "Van Dhan Vikas Kendra" is for providing skill up gradation and capacity building training and setting up of primary processing and value addition facility. They are then trained and provided with working capital to add value to the products, which they collect from the jungle. Working under the leadership of Collector these groups can then market their products not only within the States but also outside the States. Training and technical support are provided by TRIFED. It is proposed to develop 3,000 such centers in the country.

Value addition assumes critical importance in ensuring remunerative prices to the tribals in this approach. Three-stage value addition would be the cornerstone for enhancing the incomes of the tribals under the scheme. The grass root level procurement is proposed to be undertaken through Self Help Groups associated with implementing agencies.

Convergence and Networking with other Govt. departments/schemes shall be undertaken to utilize the services of existing SHGs like Ajeevika, etc. These SHGs shall be appropriately trained on sustainable harvesting/collection, primary processing & value addition and be formed into clusters so as to aggregate their stock in tradable quantity and linking them with the facility of primary processing in a Van Dhan Vikas Kendra. The stock after primary processing shall be supplied by these SHGs to the State Implementing Agencies or direct tie up for supply to the corporate secondary processors.

For the creation of secondary level value addition facility at district level and tertiary level value addition facility at State level, Big Corporates shall be involved under the PPP model. This PPP model will be based on utilizing Private entrepreneur skills in undertaking processing as well as the marketing of the produce and Central/ State Govt. support in terms of creating infrastructure and providing enabling environment for undertaking value addition of systematic scientific lines. These will be sophisticated large value addition hubs managed by Private entrepreneurs. The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras will be an important milestone in the economic development of tribals involved in the collection of MFPs by helping them in optimum utilization of natural resources and provide sustainable MFP-based livelihood in MFP-rich districts.