Tribal farmers to harvest second bamboo crop after earning right to sell

Here’s the success story of people in 16 villages of Rajasthan who put up a fight against the district administration to be able to sell their crop

By Ishan Kukreti
Last Updated: Wednesday 10 October 2018
Bamboo harvest
Harvesting and transporting the bamboo had cost the villagers around Rs 1.5 lakh the first time. Credit: Ishan Kukreti Harvesting and transporting the bamboo had cost the villagers around Rs 1.5 lakh the first time. Credit: Ishan Kukreti

It took a lot of time, immense struggle and protests, but it was all worth it. The people in Amiwara village in Udaipur district’s Jhadol block are ecstatic as they are going to harvest their second bamboo crop, which they are able to do because of the fight they put up to harvest the first one.

Residents of 16 villages in the district had launched a bamboo satyagraha on February 21 since, despite the Union government enabling them, the local administration had refused to give them permission to cut bamboo. The district administration gave the permission a day before the satyagraha. “The villagers had been seeking the right to harvest and sell bamboo, but the administration didn’t listen. Finally, when around 16 villages joined the satyagraha, the administration had to give in,” says Saurav Sinha from Seva Mandir, an Udaipur-based non-for-profit that had supported the villagers.

The Union government had amended the Indian Forest Act, 1927, in November 2017 by categorising bamboo as a grass, and not as a tree. After the amendment enabled poor communities to legally harvest and trade bamboo, people across India faced a number of administrative problems to harvest bamboo and earn a livelihood.

 “We don't cut bamboo from June, as that is the time when bamboo regenerates. We could only cut around 16,500 bamboo stems of the 30,000 stems in our pasture. We are now starting the harvesting process again from October second week,” says Devi Lal, a member of the Amiwada Gram Vikas Committee. 

Almost eight months after the villagers asserted their rights, they received a huge payment from selling their first harvest. “The last payment of the bamboo sale came during the last week of August. In total, 16,500 stems of the bamboo we sold, fetched us around Rs 2.79 lakh,” says Devi Lal, member of Amiwara Gram Vikas Committee.

Since harvesting and transporting the bamboo to Swarapganj wood market in Sirohi district cost the villagers around Rs 1.5 lakh, the gram sabha now plans to use some of the money to repair the structures like the school building and the community hall. “We had taken money from the Gram Sabha Kosh to invest in the first crop. But with the sale, that cost has been covered,” Lal adds. 

Since villagers plan to use money from both the harvests to create water harvesting structures, it seems like asserting their rights will help them make their lives resistant to the perils of climate change.

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