The Kerala Forest Department’s Participatory Forest Management (PFM) program empowers tribal communities in Chalakudy and across Kerala to sustainably collect, manage, and sell Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). This program operates under the combined efforts of the Eco-development and Tribal Welfare Wing, the State Forest Development Agency (SFDA), Forest Development Agencies (FDAs), and local PFM institutions known as Vana Samrakshana Samithis (VSS) and Eco-development Committees (EDCs).

PFM has significantly improved the marketing landscape for NTFPs collected by tribal communities. The program promotes value addition, a process that transforms raw materials into higher-value products, such as processed nuts, essential oils, or herbal medicines. This allows tribal communities to capture a larger share of the profits. Additionally, the government provides support prices for NTFPs, which act as a safety net by guaranteeing a minimum price for their products. This eliminates exploitation by middlemen who might otherwise offer significantly lower prices.

Vanasree, meaning “wealth of the forest,” are special market units established under the PFM program. These units provide tribal communities with a platform to directly market not only value-added NTFPs but also indigenous food items, handcrafted products, and other locally-sourced materials.

Furthermore, the PFM program invests in empowering tribal communities through various capacity-building initiatives. This includes providing technical know-how on improved harvesting techniques, advanced training in sustainable resource management practices to ensure long-term forest health, and even bonus payments during festivals as a token of appreciation for their contribution to forest conservation.

By creating a reliable source of income through the PFM program, tribal communities are assured of continued work opportunities throughout the year, leading to a more stable and predictable income flow. This economic security allows them to better meet their daily needs and plan for the future.

The program goes beyond just income generation. The Government also recognizes the importance of social security for these communities. This is reflected in the provision of insurance coverage for SC/ST populations, which includes many NTFP collectors. This comprehensive approach ensures a better quality of life for tribal communities who depend on the forest for their livelihoods.

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