Padampur (Orissa), June 26 : With lack of irrigation and dying Kendu trees, tribals in Orissa, who survived on agriculture and forest produce, are facing hardship.
Tribals in Bolangir and Bargah districts in the state are forced to depend on minor forest produce like Kendu leaves to earn their livelihood due to deficiency of irrigation facilities.
These leaves are available in the form of bushes in the forest.
Kendu leaf trade in Orissa lasts over six months, which provides employment to locals to earn at least two square meals a day.
"The farmers are doing cultivation and getting crops, but we are landless. So, we are depending on this Kendu leaf gathering," said Bena Majhi, a villager.
Being landless, the entire family is engaged in this trade, as it is the only source of income.
Villagers lamented that they are not being paid their wages on time. And sometimes it gets delayed to next season as well.
"We are a deprived lot. So with hope to earn money, we have to come and collect Kendu leaves with our entire family. But we are facing losses, as we are not getting good leaves. Besides, the department is not paying in time for the leaves we are collecting." said Minali Majhi, another villager.
Kendu leaf, which is mainly used for making hand rolled beedies, is a lucrative source of revenue for the state.
Orissa is the third largest producer of Kendu leaf after Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh.
The annual production of Kendu leaves in Orissa is around 4.5 to 5 lakh quintals, which is about 20 per cent of the annual production in the country.
The annual turnover is estimated at Rupees 2000 crores. by Sarada Lahangir