In India, around 21.67 % of its geographical area are forest cover area (India State of Forest Report, 2019) and 100 million forest dwellers depend on minor forest produce for food, shelter, medicines and cash income. But due to enormous speed of urban expansion, these forests of India are put under extreme duress along with the people who depend on it for livelihood. To address this challenge, the Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY) or Van Dhan Scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14th April, 2018, to improve tribal income through value addition of MFPs (non-timber items such as bamboo and other grasses, edible or useful roots, seeds, fruits, flowers and plants).
Van Dhan Yojana is an initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India) as the nodal agency at National level.
Through this scheme, locations, MFPs and tribal gatherers are identified and transformed into entrepreneurs.Under the Van Dhan Yojana, a large number of tribal community owned Van Dhan Vikas Kendras (VDVKs) have been set up in predominantly forested tribal districts. Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a major source of livelihood for the tribes living in forest areas.
A ‘Kendra’ generally constitute 15 tribal SHGs (Self Help Groups), each comprising of upto 20 tribal non-timber minor forest produce gatherers or artisans, i.e. about 300 beneficiaries per Van Dhan Kendra.
The conceptualization and implementation of PMVDY in the State of Manipur is led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh, with the help and support of the District Forest Officers (DFOs), District Administrations and other stakeholders.
77 VDVKs have been set up in Manipur, with 1170 SHGs and 25,300 tribal beneficiaries.The mobilization and sensitization of the VDVK members were carried out through cluster wise workshops and advocacy programs at the District level.Training of the members were carried out for undertaking value addition & processing of MFPs through master trainers and experts in cluster wise training programs at District level.Tool-kits including processing equipment, gloves, head-caps etc were distributed to the VDVK members.The members then undertook value addition and processing of the MFPs after receiving training and tool-kits, at their VDVK levels.
Some of the VDVK products of Manipur are fruit candies and dry pulp, pickles, jam, dried/powder local herbs, juice, etc.
After Churachandpur district initiated a ‘Mobile Van Service’ to sell the value-added MFP products from the VDVKs of the district, a few other districts soon followed and set up ‘Mobile Van Service’ in their respective districts.The products are available in the concerned VDVKs and State Forest Department Headquarters, Imphal and also online on the websites of the marketing partners of all VDVKs.
The concerted efforts of all the stakeholders have made Manipur a leading state in implementation of PMVDY among all Indian states and this achievement was duly recognised by the central Govt which aptly gave them the title of “Champion State” in October, 2020.