Lac Production

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Our inclusive lac livelihood model is being carried out for PACS in the the Gumla district of Jharkhand by Udyogini. It focuses on working with 8000 tribal women, helping them to earn a sustainable income from lac farming.

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Project summary

This model involves:

Project context

Lac is a natural resin secreted by insects that feed on certain host trees. It is a valuable natural product, used widely in the food, furniture, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries with a huge international market potential.

India is the largest producer of lac in the world and contributes to about 70% of the world’s need. However, there is currently a gap of 21% between demand and supply.

Within India, the state of Jharkhand has the largest number of host trees and ranks first in the country for production. However, in the Gumla district of Jharkhand not even 20% of lac host trees are in use.

Many of these trees are on land owned by tribal groups. With annual incomes for lac producers being over 29,000 rupees (£290), there is a huge opportunity for tribal groups to benefit from this livelihood.

Skills and tools for lac cultivation

The role of women in lac production has traditionally been restricted to post-harvesting work like preparing scraped lac and taking it to market. This is because the lac host trees are high and hard to reach. Men have therefore carried out the inoculating and harvesting processes.

The Indian Institute of Natural Resins and Gums (IINRG), a premier research institute on lac, has developed scientific methods to improve lac production, such as increasing the number of cultivation seasons per year by using two strains of insects.

"We have a signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IINRG," explains Bharat Kumar Rathor, Project Manager for Udyogini. "Scientists from IINRG frequently take us to villages and help us understand new things. They always give us new inputs for enhancing lac production and improving the plantation work."

Training has helped female lac producers to understand the benefits of tree pruning, effective inoculation methods and regular pest management. As lac farmer Punnai Oraon says: "Spraying of pesticide, pruning of branches and many other things are quite new for us but we are doing it very comfortably.”

To aid the pruning and harvesting processes women have also been given secateurs, which are much easier to use than axes. By using these tools and implementing these techniques, harvests are increasing: “We are now making optimum use of trees available here,” says lac farmer Kamla Devi“Lac production is four to five times higher [than before].”

Find out more about the lac cultivation process on our Learning Zone.

End-to-end solutions

To ensure that lac production is fully run by the producers – from tree to market – without the need to rely on external suppliers, the project has put in place a number of end-to-end solutions.

Udyogini works with communities to identify certain groups of trees to retain as brood farms. They have also introduced a new shorter bush – Semialata – which gives a higher lac harvest and only grows to 6 feet in height, making it easier to tend to and harvest.

Brood lac farmer Suneera Toppo has been supported by the project to plant a nursery of Semialata trees to ensure a regular supply of brood lac to producers in the area. She says: "After the Semialata nursery is mature, we are expecting to harvest brood lac worth 100,000 rupees in a season.”

The Village Level Service Centres also carry out end-to-end solutions, including aggregating, grading and weighing the scraped lac.

Women’s Enterprise Groups

Under the project, female lac producers are encouraged and supported to organise themselves into community-level Women’s Enterprise Groups.

Each Women’s Enterprise Group elects one woman to be a community Business Development Service Provider (BDSP). It is their job to attend the IINRG training on behalf of the 60-100 producers in their group. 

On returning, the BDSP is responsible for passing their knowledge on to their Women’s Enterprise Group. As trusted members of their local community, their promotion of the new scientific techniques and the support and advice they give to producers at a local level is vital.

BDSPs also act as a link to the Village Level Service Centres, lac cooperatives and Udyogini. They are involved in collecting data on the level of lac production in their area, facilitating reliable lac supply and passing on any producer queries.

Sohadri Devi is a BDSP and has noted a real change in the role of women as lac producers: “Earlier, women just used to help in making scraps after the lac was removed from the trees. But now they are engaged in every stage related to lac farming, right from the plantation of brood to the sale of the product.”

Village Level Service Centres

In addition to the BDSPs, selected women have been given small business training and support to set up Village Level Service Centres (VLSCs).

The VLSCs are village-level market and livelihood hubs, which serve as:

  • A one-stop local aggregation point where producers can deliver their harvested scraped and brood lac. Prices are determined by IINRG in line with international market prices and so producers know they are being paid fairly.
  • A value addition centre where scraped lac is weighed and graded before being sold to market.
  • A brood seller where producers who do not have brood can buy it.
  • A fair price market shop for non timber forest produce and agri-products.

Past experience has shown that VLSCs gradually expand into general retail shops where “Fast Moving Consumer Goods” (such as soft drinks, toiletries and bread) as well as cereals, pulses and other essential goods are traded and sold.

Monika is a VLSC manager“This centre is the best place for serving the local population," she explains. "People do not have to spend much time and energy to sell locally produced goods and we are providing a two-way service.”

Women’s Cooperatives

Eight producer cooperatives have also been established under the project. The role of the cooperatives are to:

  • Connect the producers to the right markets so they can get fair prices.
  • Provide benefits to producer members, including access to working capital, training and other knowledge resources to help strengthen them and enable them to scale-up production.
  • Link producers to relevant government schemes such as the credit and brood supply schemes of Jasscolamp.
     
Initial results

As of December 2014, the following results have been achieved:

  • 6469 producers have been trained on lac production
  • 197 BDSPs have been selected and trained
  • 39 VLSCs identified
  • 20 brood farms have been established
  • Over 3673 households have started scientific cultivation practices
  • Partnerships have been forged with industries for aggregation and sale

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