Distressed tribals urge govt to procure mahua flowers

Kaptipada: People belonging to scheduled tribe communities who form 70 per cent of the population of this block in Mayurbhanj district are facing livelihood crisis. 

The tribals who depend on collection of minor forest produce (MFP) like mahua flowers are facing difficulties due to the restrictions imposed by the government on collection of the MFP.
They urged the government to directly procure the MFP from them just like paddy, so that they can make good earnings.

According to reports, tribals collect mahua flowers, ‘tola’, sal leaves, ‘harida’, and amla (gooseberry) and manage their expenses by selling the produce in villages or market places.

“Mahua flowers and sal leaves have high demand in the market. But, due to the restriction on their collection, our livelihood has been affected,” rued some tribals.
There a large number of mahua trees at Kalamgadia, Sarat, Nato, Ranipokhari, Sardiha, Dewanbahali, Ramchandrapur, Labanyadeipur, Padmapokhari, Chakradharpur, JS Jamudiha, Kulialam, Debala, Majhigadia, Salachua and Mankadpada panchayats under this block.

Usually, mahua flowers ripen and start falling off tress in the month March. Tribals collect the flowers and preserve them by drying them up.
However, the price that they get from traders for the produce is not commensurate with the labour they invest in collecting the flowers, many tribals lamented.
Neither the administration nor the forest department has made provision of procurement of the MFP from them, the tribals said.

It was learnt that traders from other states procure the produce through local middlemen at throwaway prices.
“Traders and middlemen make huge profits by selling mahua. But the flower collectors fail to get the right price of their labour. The scenario is such that mahua collectors barter 1 kg of mahua flowers for 2 kg of salt,” Sanatan Singh and Sukul Soren, residents of Chakradharpur, said.

They said the government used to fix the price of mahua flowers while the Orissa Forest Development Corporation used to procure the produce from them. Later, panchayats were entitled to fix prices of 68 types of MPFs, but sarpanchs did not take any responsibility, Sanatan and Sukul claimed. All norms remained confined to pen and paper, the tribals alleged.

Mahua flowers are essential for preparing liquor and medicines. The produce has high demand even in the global market.
Locals have been demanding a laboratory for mahua flowers and a plant for its processing in the district.

They said if the government sincerely procures mahua flowers from tribals, the latter would get benefits and it will strengthen their economy.

Kaptipada forest ranger Sangram Keshari Mohanty said, “Our department has no control over the collection and procurement of Mahua flowers. Now, panchayats are supposed to fix the price.”  PNN

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