Jharkhand means the “Land of forests” and true to its name the state is endowed with vast forests and a rich assemblage of floral and faunal biodiversity. Few states of India can match the scenic landscapes and rich biodiversity of Jharkhand.
Jal (Water), Jangal (Forest), Jamin (land) and Janwar (Animals) are very dear to Tribals for their survival. They used to be the owner of all these. Water was available to them in abundance. They were heavily depended on forest for their living. During the lean season, the livelihood of many people depends critically on forest products for subsistence or supplementary income. The most destitute gather wood for sale. A major part of the wood that head loaders and bicycle loaders carry is meant for the urban markets. The degree of dependence on forests for subsistence or cash income varies from place to place and depends on the state of forests, access and presence or absence of other income generation opportunities. Nearly half of the population among the agricultural tribes such as the Munda, Oraon, Santhal and Ho depend on the forest to earn a livelihood. ‘Protect and Prosper’ this slogan should define the relationship of villagers with forests. This is particularly true of weaker sections with a low base of land ownership as non-timber forest produce (NTFP) can play a very important role in protecting them from poverty and hunger. The basket markers – Mahlis, get their raw material (bamboo) from the forest. The tribals get edible roots, fruits, vegetables, flowers, honey, birds and animals (monkeys, hares, pigs etc.) from the forest. The ‘Mahua’ flower is a staple food for the poorer classes, at least for a part of the year. It is also used for making liquor. Mahua seed is used for making oil, both for cooking and lighting purposes. It has been estimated that access to three ‘Mahua’ trees is adequate for the survival of a tribal household for over a year. The tribals also eat the fruits of the Palas, Ber, Piar, Jamun, Imli, Sarifa and many other wild trees.
When it comes to land Jharkhand has vast mineral reserves, with 33% of India’s Coal deposits, 47% of its mica and 34% of its copper. Besides these mineral reserves, land is very dear to tribals, as tribals are by nature farmers. Year after year tribals cultivated paddy and survived. Even the poorest of the poor will have some or the other plot of land as a mark that they are sons of the soil.
And animal was their constant companion for every activities they undertook, but as the time pass by Tribal people started losing their control over all these. There is no more dense forest left. Tribals do have few animals with them, but they are more burden than of any use to them. There are landless tribals declaring that they do not belong to Jharkhand any more and water scarcity is well know.
SIGN with the mandate of ensuring these tribals that it is rights to have, manage and use all these natural resources viz. Jal, Jangal, Jamin and Janwar. When we talk about food sovereignty, it implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.
The effort of SIGN is to promote appropriate local food crops with scientific approach, soil conservation approaches, animal husbandry, watershed approaches to preserve water and more plantations. All these are done to meet the food needs within homes and communities.