• Creating Agricultural Entrepreneurs in Jharkhand- Lessons from a UNDP Biodiversity Project | Ruchi Pant

    28 Aug 2012

    Creating Agricultural Entrepreneurs in Jharkhand- Lessons from a UNDP Biodiversity Project | Ruchi Pant
    [Photo: UNDP India]

    I was very encouraged that Times of India covered one of our small projects in Jharkhand. This project helped 30 young people in the district become agricultural entrepreneurs – cultivating and selling lac to nearby markets. For years lac cultivation had been a valuable source of income for poor, tribal families in extremist-affected Khunti district in Jharkhand. However, a shortage of brood lac or mother insects required to cultivate lac has made it more difficult to grow lac in the last few years. But a recent partnership between the Institute of Forest Productivity and UNDP has given a new lease to lac cultivation in the area. It’s a success which has included many more villagers along with it. Hundreds of villagers have been employed in a range of activities relating to growing lac.

    In 2011, record production in Murhu bloc resulted in an annual income of INR 70,000 for each family. According to Dera Munda, a middle-aged farmer who grew lac on 25 trees, “I have grown around 1.25 quintals of lac which has fetched me INR 80,000.” In an area plagued with drought and limited irrigation facilities which has made it difficult for families to cultivate yearly paddy crop, “income from lac cultivation has meant that we have enough to eat” said Sanika who has grown around two quintals of lac on 35-40 trees and earned close to INR 200,000.

    Villagers took the initiative one step further – they set up a seed bank from which families were given seeds to grow lac. The UNDP project ‘Biodiversity Conservation through Community-based Natural Resource Management as part of which, this experiment in Khunti was undertaken, recognizes the important links between rural livelihoods and conserving biodiversity. Cultivation of lac can not only be a reliable source of income, but also help in conserving forests and the biodiversity associated with the lac insect.

    Since 2008 the UNDP project in partnership with state governments in Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha has supported pilots such as in Khunti towards enabling national and state-level policies that recognize the symbiotic relationship between local communities and the ecosystem.

    They also represent important poverty reduction strategies for tribal communities dependent on natural resources for livelihoods.

    Ruchi Pant is Programme Analyst, Environment and Energy unit, UNDP India.