Minor Forest Produce (MFP)
Section 2(4) of the Indian Forest Act 1927 defines only "forest-produce" and this term connotes to those products whether found in, or brought from a forest such as
- timber, charcoal, caoutchouc, catechu, wood-oil, resin, natural varnish, bark, lac, mahua flowers, mahua seeds, kuth and myrabolams,
- trees and leaves, flowers and fruits, and all other parts or produce of trees,
- plants not being trees (including grass, creepers, reeds and moss), and all parts or produce of such plants,
- wild animals and skins, tusks, horns, bones, silk, cocoons, honey and wax, and all other parts or produce of animals, and
- peat, surface soil, rock and minerals (including lime-stone, laterite, mineral oils), and all products of mines or quarries;
In short, the essential condition to be qualified as a forest produce is that the products should be either found in or be brought from forest.
Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a subset of forest produce and got a definition only in 2007 when the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, was enacted. Section 2(i) of the said Act defines a Minor Forest Produce (MFP) as all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, brushwood, stumps, canes, Tusser, cocoon, honey, waxes, Lac, tendu/kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tuber and the like.
Thus, the definition of “minor forest produce” includes bamboo and cane, thereby changing the categorization of bamboo and cane as “trees” under the Indian Forest Act 1927.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly known as the Forests Rights Act (FRA), was enacted in 2007. The Act recognizes and vests individual forest-dwellers with forest rights to live in and cultivate forest land that was occupied before 13 December 2005 and grants community forest rights to manage, protect and regenerate the forest under section 3(1)(i), and to own and dispose minor forest products from forests where they had traditional access. Section 3(1)(c) of the Forest Rights Act 2006 defines forest rights as inclusive of ‘Right of ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce which have traditionally been collected within or outside village boundaries’. Individuals, communities and gram sabhas having rights under this particular section of the Act will not only have the rights to use but also rights of ownership over MFPs. This goes beyond the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension To The Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA Act) which had authorised states to entrust panchayats and gramasabhas as the owners of MFP.
As per the Report of the National Committee on Forest Rights Act, submitted in 2010, in all, about 100 million people living in and around forests derive at least part of their livelihood from collection and marketing of non-timber forest products or MFPs. This includes, in addition to tribals, dalits, other forest dwellers who have not been officially declared as tribals, women, and other marginalised groups.
The Government of India has launched a central sector scheme for marketing of Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support Price (MSP) and development of value chain to ensure fair monetary returns to MFP gatherers for their efforts in collection, primary processing, storage, packaging, transportation etc. The scheme envisages fixation and declaration of Minimum Support Price for the selected MFP based on the suggestions /inputs received from Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) which came into existence in 1987, and the States concerned. Procurement and marketing operation at pre- fixed MSP is undertaken by the designated State agencies. The Scheme has initially being implemented in States having areas under Vth schedule of the Constitution of India namely; Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for non- nationalized and abundantly available 12 MFPs namely, (i) Tendu, (ii) Bamboo, (iii) Mahuwa Seed, (iv) Sal Leaf, (v) Sal Seed, (vi) Lac, (vii) Chironjee, (viii) Wild Honey, (ix) Myrobalan, (x) Tamarind, (xi) Gums (Gum Karaya) and (xii) Karanj. The Scheme also envisages training of 1,00,000 MFP gatherers of tribal origin on sustainable harvesting and value addition activities.
TRIFED has also introduced the MFPnet portal which is designed to act as an adjunct and a catalyst for implementing the scheme of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produce (MFP). This portal provides information about TRIFED, MFP trade in India, marketing prospects for MFPs, MFP development training and TRIFED's retail marketing activities, MSP for MFPs and its current status. It is intended with the main objective of ensuring fair price to MFP gatherers who are mainly tribals, enhancing their income level and ensuring sustainable harvesting of MFPs. It is a one stop destination for all information needs on MFPs and facilitate stakeholders in MFP trade.