First SFP sale lays foundation for entrepreneurship in Chhota Banghal MGS

The Chhota Banghal MGS (Maha Gram Sabha), a federation of 28 GSs (Gram Sabhas) was convened on 21st March 2022. The concerted efforts of the IoFE team in collaboration with local resource people led to this convention. The significance of establishing a MahaGramSabha is primarily to build market linkages at a scale. The IoFE team at BIPP-ISB created a market linkage between Chhota Bhangal federation and Arjun Herbal Products (a large wholesaler, trader & exporter) run by Mr Arjun Mehta, from Majith Mandi market, Amritsar. It is one of India’s largest wholesale markets for spices and herbs. The federation could begin its operations with facilitation of meetings to plan the collection, storage, and coordination of the Gucchi mushroom sale. The sale of SFPs required for our team to prepare the permit documents, and other formalities such as PAN card, Bank accounts, and GST number.  

We informed the responsibilities of the GS, such as the forming management committees under section 4(1)(e) of FRA 2006 (forest rights act), preparing the record of last year’s herb collection, and current year’s herb collection and management plan. We also planned an operational training for the Gram Sabhas about the sale of Gucchi.  

The MGS has a bank account on its name and is preparing to acquire a PAN card and GST number. MGS was setting up herb record system in paper for the Gucchi sale, with IoFE’s value addition will now be continually digitized. With our support, MGS was willing to test the digitization of the record-keeping system.  

During the MGS meetings in April, we discussed the proceedings of the plans made in March, the status of the management plans for herb collection, and reviewed the herb record system. Each GS agreed to submit its herb collection and management plans. These records were developed by mapping the herbs geographically by species, in the local forest and common forest areas. A gross value of quantity of Gucchi can be derived once all 28 GSs submit their management plans. This estimation can help stock availability for the month of May. 

7 Gram Sabhas out of the 28 submitted their management plans for herbs, giving an average volume of the Gucchi collection. By the end of April, it was noticed that Gucchi was not collected as per the estimation due to insufficient rainfall. MGS opined it was wise to sell Kadu instead of Gucchi assuming that enough is not collected by May. Kadu is the local name for Kutki Root (Picrorhiza kurroa).  

Multiple villages/GS submit their management plans each month (March, April, May, June) to DFO. In May, MGS and FD decided to develop combined management and business plans for collective herbal sales for the common forest. To fasten the herb collection plan, MGS drafted a mapping committee to map the herbs by species, by grazing area, list all herbs from common forests, including season, and draft rotation closer by geography and species. The committee will also map the areas with potential of Eco-tourism. Rajgundha GS started tourist camps with some rules and restrictions to promote Eco-tourism.  

All 28 GS held a meeting in July and decided to sell Kadu instead of Gucchi due to low harvest of Gucchi. The management plans prepared till July were beneficial, and the MGS was ready to act and grabbed the opportunity to sell Kadu immediately. A three-person team from the MGS travelled to Amritsar to finalize the sale deal. We prepared the list of GSs with ample amounts of Kadu for the first round of collective sales, considering the risk from the government. We prepared details and plans regarding the collection centre, storage facility, herbs collection receipt issued by the GS, proof of sustainability issued to GS by TP (transit permit), copy of PAN card and GST number, and the tax invoice in the name of the buyer raised by MGS by August. Discussions between MGS and the Arjun Herbal Products regarding price resulted in ambiguity initially, but the Logic of 20% – 5% GST +10%Royalty (FD do) + 5% Management cost was finalized.  

We notified the FD and the police department before transporting the first sale in mid-August. But we anticipated trouble during the transport and mobilized multiple stakeholders and volunteers to support. MGS members, lawyers, volunteers from CPI party, the Student Federation of India, and BIPP-ISB team, planned to gather at the check post to support and solve any unforeseeable roadblocks.  

MGS and BIPP-ISB successfully made the sale of Kadu to the Arjun Herbal Products crossing two checkpoints where the officials were supportive. PAN card, GST number, bank account, and transit permits were gathered with the government officials’ and bank officials’ support.  

5 GS participated in the first round of collective sales in September, the second round was planned shortly after this sale. Moving ahead, we are setting up women SHGs, a federation authorizing them to sell SFPs as part of a long-term strategy to encourage women’s participation.  

With 12 GS submitting their herb management plans, the MGS is preparing for the next sale of SFP. These plans are being digitised by us in real time to ensure enhanced sale of SFPs in the coming year.  

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