“VANASREE” : Wonders from the Wilderness…
The forests of Kerala state which are part of the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hot- spot, are repositories of innumerable products useful to mankind, quite apart from timber. These products, likely honey, medicinal herbs, resins, incense, spices, condiments, fibres etc, are generally called Mirror Forest Produce (MFP) or more recently, Non Wood Forest Produce (NWPP) and have been traditionally handles by the forest department communities, predominantly tribal peoples. The produce collected used to be traded for paltry amounts, without value addition, mostly in the informal market controlled by middle men. Further, the collection process was mostly destructive and the removals unsustainable. This resulted in the extinction of many endemic specious in our forests.
Participatory Forest Management (PFM) initiatives instituted in the State during the late 1990s gave a new direction to the approach of the Forest Department and the Forest dependant communities with the management of NWFP. Scientific Management of NWFP has been identified as a most significant step necessary for improving the lively hood of the forest dependant communities and for ensuring their meaningful participation in forest conservation. Developing scientific collection protocols, setting up facilities for storage, developing value addition process and marketing of NWFP have been inseparably intertwined with the principles and practice of PFM in the state. Many successful initiatives emerged in many parts of the state in the field of sustainable harvesting of produce like honey, black dammer, coccum etc. Forest Samrakshana Samithies (VSS) and the Eco-development Committees (EDC).
For providing organized support services to the VSS and EDC in the fields of scientific collection, value addition and marketing of NWFP, a “Vanasree Cell” has been set up in the Forest Department. Value added products are marketed as “Vanasree” products.
We, the Forest Department and the forest dependant communities, ensure that the marketed “Vanasree” products are sustainably harvested, hygienically processed and the packaged in eco-friendly materials. In the endeavour, we target better livelihood for three lakh people who constitute our forest dependant population.