Value addition of MFPs – Potential tool to empower tribal community

Value addition of MFPs is a great way to utilize the hidden potential and value of forest produce which can improve the social and economic conditions of the community. Handholding by grassroot institutions along with governments support will go a long way in creating better livelihood opportunities for the tribal and marginalized community.

Wayanad is the major tribal (Adivasi) dominated district and is home to 12 tribal communities with considerable diversity in terms of livelihood traditions, dialect, cultural practices and socio-economic affiliations. Based on the peculiarity of tribal economy Adivasis are classified into several groups in which forest-dependent community occupies predominant role. Studies revealed that over time, forest-dependent communities have been facing unique survival challenges viz extreme weather vagaries, restriction to access forest produce, lower market price and health risks associated with forest produce extraction and  collection. All these factors curtailed the income of forest-dependent communities to a great extent.

Collection of Minor Forest Products (MFPs) is physically challenging and gives meager returns if unprocessed. Though they invest their heart and hand during collection, these services are undermined due to undervalued market price, measurement misappropriation, commission of middlemen, the low shelf life of certain produce, massive surplus during seasons, lack of storage facility and lack of bridging money to meet the immediate needs for the marketing and packaging of produce. Moreover, the perishable nature of the produce compels Adivasis to sell their produce at a cheaper price which result in the tribals remaining in poverty despite their product being highly valued in the market.

 The Initiative

Cheeyambam 73 settlement is located in Poothadi Grama Panchayath, Wayanad District of Kerala.  The settlement was a government owned plantation which was later distributed to 302 landless tribal families dominated by Paniyan, Katunayakan and Mullukruma community. Being a forest-dependent community, Katunayakan families heavily rely on MFPs collection in the locality. Due to the strategic position of tribal settlements and close contact with nature, other two communities also heavily depend on MFPs collection for livelihoods though they are not a forest-dependent community by tradition. Out of the total 302 families, 53 families are heavily dependent on MFPs for household consumption and generating livelihood. During the months of MFPs collection, their monthly income contribution from MFPs was found to be more than 90%. The primary data itself highlighted a  huge potential and need for value addition of MFPs to generate higher income.

Community Agrobiodiversity Centre, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation at Wayanad, Kerala took up an initiative on value addition of MFP. The aim was not only to reduce the losses due to lack of proper market linkage, plug middlemen appropriation to assure fair price for their produce but also to attempt an increase in the shelf life of MFPs through value addition and convert MFPs as an livelihood opportunity rather than mere collection. The initiative was implemented with the joint support of NABARD and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

A series of field studies and trainings were organized by the centre since 2018 to identify the gaps and issues regarding collection and value addition of MFPs. Trainings were organized in different phases; firstly knowledge based training on MFPs, secondly hands on skill based training on value addition (learning by doing) and finally on production and marketing.

An SHG named ‘Vanamallika’ was formed with the participation of 6 women and 4 men from the tribal community. The trainings were given on various topics related to value addition namely retaining maximum nutrients in product, reducing the use of preservatives and adulterants, food processing and value addition of seasonally available, perishable forest produce. The components of training focused on both household’s nutritional security as well as income generation. However, the thrust was majorly given to the processing and value addition of MFPs.

Table 1 Value addition of MFPs by Vanamallika SHG

S. No. MFPs Value added products
1 Wild Gooseberry (Amla) Pickle, Honey with Amla, Amla Candy, Dried amla, Amla powder, Amla seed for medicinal purpose
2 Honey Processed honey (Heating, filtering and double boiling methods)
3 Jackfruit Payasam, Jack varatti, Jack biriyani, Jack fritters, jack Samosa, Jack seed powder
4 Ginger Dried ginger, Ginger powder, Ginger coffee
5 Yam Yam mixture
6 Curry leaves Curry leaves powder, Curry leaves tamarind mix powder
7 Moringa Moringa leaves powder


To cater to the need for food processing and value addition, a unit was initiated with limited budget provision. Since, value addition is a supplementary income generation activity for the SHG group members, it was not possible to ensure it as a regular income source but the efforts are being taken through value added products for making it as a consistent employment activity. The unit is presently doing value addition in a collective manner for papaya, ginger, jackfruit and coffee during off season to sustain the unit and keep it running. Value-added products developed and marketed by the group is given in Table 1.

Besides training, support was also provided for marketing, by the resource persons. Since, they network with people who are already engaged in large scale value addition and the members of Farmer Producers’ Organisation (FPO) in the vicinity, this network is helping the tribal community in marketing their raw materials or products as well. At present, the SHG is following two main marketing strategies i.e. one through direct sale of the products and second by utilizing the various eco shops/organic product outlets spread across the state. Being an intervention at its budding stage, the team expects it to be more successful in the coming years.


As the initiative is fairly new, it is difficult to ascertain the impact of products at the family level. However, based on the study done till now, wild arrowroot powder has comparatively more demand. This is because unadulterated good quality arrowroot powder is rarely available in the market. But, the lacuna here is related to the processing part. Even though the product has enough demand, the production is very low owing to time consuming traditional processing methods. Wild arrowroot is available in abundance in the forest but due to a lower price for the raw produce, the community is reluctant to collect it. But now with the machinery available, it became easier to process and sell it in the market at a higher price which also reduced the drudgery of the community. Last year, 20 kg processed arrowroot was sold at a price of Rs 1500/kg. Overall, in the last year MFP based value added products sale turn over came out to be around one lakh rupees.

The value addition effort helped tribal women’s financial inclusion as the group formation and joint effort helped to improve their social and economic solidarity in the community. The efforts of the initiative including the purchase of MFPs from the community, support in facilitating the sale of the raw and value-added products and developing entrepreneurial skills among the members highly improved the self-esteem of the group members among the community. This made them realize their own strength and potential in generating better livelihood opportunities for themselves and also for the entire community. After attaining skill and knowledge through various training and capacity-building activities by the centre, their experience with technology made them as a skilled labour and empowered them.

Demonstration of “Nutri-rich” value-added products in different forums helped to generate high levels of consumer awareness.

With the outbreak of covid, which made huge labour displacement in tribal pockets, in such adversities, SHG Vanamallika group members were able to gain fair income (Rupees 600/per person) on a daily basis through the production and marketing of value-added products. The SHG group’s demonstration of “Nutri-rich” value-added products in different forums as a food fest helped to generate high-level consumer awareness as well. Also, for the consumers, Vanamallika groups’ value-added products were assured as safe to eat products since they were homemade, natural, organic and close to home.

 Challenges and future endeavors

The recurrent restrictions due to Covid created an unprecedented crisis on the value addition process. The Covid outbreak affected the access to raw material demand of value-added products. Most of the raw materials for developing value-added products by the SHG are largely seasonal MFPs, namely, wild arrowroot, wild gooseberry, wild honey, wild mango, jackfruit seed, etc. that are available only in seasons. Raw material which are highly perishable in nature, need to be stored for the entire year which requires technology and expensive facilities. Moreover, value addition is profitable only when the raw material is available in the vicinity and easily accessible since that only determines the sustainability of the unit.

Many factors like inadequate storage facilities, low grade packing (inadequate packing reduces shelf life as well as attraction from consumers), lack of marketing strategies like advertisement were identified as limitations to sustain in the market. Further, a recurrent covid situation also destroyed the supply chain of products which is an issue that is difficult to comprehend at this point.

Another challenge at the group level was the reduction in the availability of certain MFPs due to unsustainable harvest by the tribal community. Since the Adivasi community is traditionally a marginalized community and the group members don’t have credible skills in community and capacity mobilization it becomes difficult to carry out all activities in a professional manner.  These issues even affect all the processes from production to distribution level. It is important to note that external handholding is necessary initially for empowering group members in various aspects of product development and distribution. Handholding by grassroot institutions along with governments support will go a long way in creating better livelihood opportunities for the tribal and marginalized community.


The authors acknowledge the contributions of Ms. Bushara, Ms. Bindhu Joseph, Mr. Noushique and Ms. Padmini Sivadas during the field-level intervention and are hopeful for the project to be a successful endeavor in coming years.

Archana Bhatt and Vipindas

 Archana Bhatt

Scientist, Community Agrobiodiversity Centre,

MSSRF, Wayanad, Kerala




Development Associate

Community Agrobiodiversity Centre,

MSSRF, Wayanad, Kerala

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