A Sustainable Community: Keeping forests and tribal culture alive

FSC India / Jasvinder Sehgal
man carries piece of log on his head
FSC India / Jasvinder Sehgal
June 20, 2017
Category : Stories

FSC’s responsible forest management approach revives degraded forests and improves the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples in north-east India.

Kasam Lakshmi Tripuri is a young widow and a mother of two girls for whom finances have been a challenge since her husband passed away. But her fortunes changed when she was given the rights to tap 160 rubber trees in the nearby forest for their latex. The sale of this latex gives her and her family a stable monthly income.

She is just one of a large family of workers and beneficiaries of the Tripura Forest Development and Plantation Corporation (TFDPC), an initiative of the Tripura state government to find a way forward for both forests and the local communities. The corporation manages commercial rubber and bamboo plantations spread over 38 rubber plantation centres across the state’s eight districts. Since 2015 TFDPC has maintained both FSC forest management, and chain of custody, certification.

NOW WATCH: Meet the Tripura Indigenous peoples.

Tripura is the smallest of India’s seven north-eastern states, at 10,490 square kilometres. Around 60 per cent of Tripura is forested, but barely 21 per cent of these forests are healthy – the remaining areas are degraded.

Home to a large tribal population, much of the state struggles with poverty. Tribal people have traditionally been dependent on the forests for their survival, practicing jhum (slash and burn) methods of agriculture. Over time, this has resulted in large tracts of dense forests being cleared for food crops. Today, to save forests from destruction, the practice of jhum is discouraged but this comes at a steep price: food insecurity for many of the tribal people.

FSC India / Jasvinder Sehgal
FSC India / Jasvinder Sehgal

Now, under TFDPC, tribal families are provided with a one-hectare rubber plantation allowing them to extract latex. TFDPC then buys this latex at fair prices. Thus far, this scheme has provided sustainable incomes for over 1,200 families, and brought other social benefits such as improvement of community facilities like rain shelters.

TFDPC has been working towards responsibly managing plantationsand FSC certification takes this responsible management even further, endorsing and adding value to TFDPC’s efforts – something that will soon enable them to compete in international markets.

Certification also brings with it compliance with best practices across all plantations - while the rubber plantations are man-made, throughout the plantations lie verdant patches of natural forests that are being protected, mandated under the terms of certification.

The village of Kathalchari lies in the state’s south division. Demographically, the village is made up entirely of Tripuri tribal people, and almost all of them own rights to tap latex from nearby TFDPC plantations. Samir Tripura is the TFDPC officer-in-charge in the village; “The population here was living in extreme poverty until a few years ago. Now, given that each of them owns rights to at least 150-200 rubber trees, their income levels have risen considerably.”

I own rights to 200 trees and begin tapping at 4:30am. Once the trees have begun trickling latex, I go back home, get my children ready for school and go back at 8am to collect the latex. I earn as much as Rs 15,000-20,000 (USD 219-292) per month and my family is able to enjoy greater quality of life.

– Savita Tripura

FSC firmly believes in protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples whose livelihoods depend on the health of the forests, as numerous studies have proved this is an effective approach to halting deforestation. In Tripura, with communities working hand-in-hand with TFDPC, FSC certification has created tangible long-term benefits for the people and the forest – benefits that will hopefully last for many generations.