Non-timber forest products (NTFP) are popularly known as goods of biological origin as well as services, derived from forestland excluding wood in all forms. Though debate still continues about the definition of the term, the utility of NTFP can not be underestimated to the forest inhabitants in particular and the populace in general. The definition of NTFPs or MFP varies from state to state.
MFP has not been defined in Orissa Forest Act of 1972 and Orissa Forest Produce (control of trade) Act of 1981. The recent policy of the government that identified 85 NTFP, for the first time has made distinction between MFP and NTFP, though not specifically defined. The NTFP are divided into two categories namely, MFP and other NTFP. Forest produces like tamarind, honey, hill brooms, Siali leaves, Myrobolans and tree borne oilseed (TBOs) like Neem, Karanj, babul, Kusum etc. which come to 69 (After de-nationalisation of salseeds) items are termed as MFP and have been kept under control of GPs. The other NTFP consist of two further sub-categories, nationalised produces and lease bar produces.
After the enactment of PESA, the govt. of MP defined the term minor forest produces as “ MFP as the forest produce which can be harvested on a non-destructive basis, i.e. the harvesting of produce which leads to destruction of trees, plants and vegetation will not be classified as minor forest produce”. After the formation of Chhattisgarh the same definition has been followed by the state.
In Jharkhand there is no legal definition of Minor Forest Produce, however Part III Chapter XV of Bihar Forest Rules defines bamboo, sabai grass, Kendu leaves etc. as Minor Forest Produce.
NTFP include all the products obtainable from forest other than timber. NTFP have been classified into fibres and flosses, grasses, cane and fodder, essential oils, tannins and dyes, gums and resins, drugs and medicines, edible products, oil seeds, leaves, animal, mineral and miscellaneous products.
In Orissa the important NTFP are Bamboo, Kendu Leaf, Sal seed, Mahua flower and seed, Myrabolans, Broom grass, Tamarind, Sal leaf, Siali leaf and fibre, Sal resin, Tassar cocoons, Lac, Honey, Wax, Genduli gum, Patal garuda, Nux vomica, Chironjee, Fodder grass, Thatching grass, Arrowroot etc.
The importance of the produces can be imagined from the above-mentioned categories, more so in case of the tribal community and forest dwellers who have always been living in harmony with the nature. For them every aspect of life and livelihood is dependent on NTFP – be it the food they eat in the form of leaves, fruits, fibres and tubers, oil derived from the seeds or the fodder for their animals, or the houses they live in or the medicines they use to cure themselves or the clothes and ornaments they wear. While every aspect of contribution from the produces is in itself important, the vital aspect is that it provides them with food security for almost the entire year in some form or the other. In most of the forested areas of Orissa, these forest produces have been supporting tribal for more than 6-8 months a year both in terms of subsistence and cash income.