Co-operative procurement and marketing of tendu leaves in Madhya Pradesh

The collection and sale of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) forms a significant part of the livelihoods of forest fringe communities in India, with an estimated 10-27 crore people involved in it. The leaf of tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon), which is used to roll beedis (Indian cigarettes), is one of the most socially and economically important NTFPs. Its collection provides employment to at least 75 lakh leaf pluckers, largely in central India. Madhya Pradesh produces the largest volume of tendu leaf in the country, accounting for more than 25% of the national production. All central Indian states have ‘nationalized’ tendu leaves in order to control its trade, and ostensibly follow policies to enhance incomes for tendu leaf pluckers. After the passing of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) in 1996 and the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, the states are under pressure to transfer rights over tendu leaf and all other NTFPs to forest-dwellers. But no practical approach has been worked out for this transition.