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Mahua, (Madhuca indica)--The tree of poor.


Plants have been the integral part of human life since its presence on the earth. From hunter-gatherer to a farmer human races have been closely associated with the plants for their day-to-day need. Since last 15,000 years before present human believed to have started settling and agriculture "the systematic cultivation of plants" started at some particular parts of the earth. Various plants have been domesticated since then and used for diverse human need. Till today farmers, plant scientists, agriculturists and phytochemists are coming up with enormous discoveries on plants and their products. The present site is being developed keeping in mind an unending association of plans with man and to upgrade the knowledge of students, scientists and common public about the traditional and modern uses of plants for human life.

The two major species of genus Madhuca found in India are Madhuca Indica (latifolia) and Madhuca longifolia (longifolia). Mahua is the widely accepted as local name for the fat from both these species. This plant is common in deciduous forests. The seed potential of this tree in India is 500000 tons and oil potential is 180000 tons. Madhuca latifolia is a medium sized to large deciduous tree, distributed in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Madhuca longifoia, a large evergreen tree found in South India, and evergreen forests of the Western ghats from Konkan Southwards. The tree is planted in most part of India, propagating either by itself or sown seeds.

Materials and Methods

The study was carried in Central India known for predominant tribal population, abundance of resources and their dependence on the collection of forest products for sustainable livelihood. For the purpose of this study four prominent central India states which account for maximum production and collection of Mahua, (Madhuca indica) viz. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand were taken.

Primary data was collected through household survey, focused group discussion and Participatory rural Appraisal (PRA). Secondary data was collected through interviews from forest department officials, other line department officials. The primary data were collected through, informal Conversations structured and open-ended questionnaires while, the secondary data were collected from the reports of Forest Department, reports and publication of academic institutes and NGOs.


Mahua flowers are used as ready currency in some places, where they are sold to provide income for essential food items on a regular basis during the collection season. More than 75 percent of the tribal population of central India is engaged in collection of mahua flower. Collection of flowers is done on both revenue and forest lands mostly by women and children.

The income for mahua varies from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3750 per household, which requires 20-30 days of hard work. In all these states mahua collection is done in a scattered manner. Women and children are largely involved in collection of mahua. They repay their credit money by selling mahua flowers and seeds.

In all these states on average, each family collects about five to six quintals of mahua flowers per season, which contributes up to 30 percent of their annual cash income. It is estimated that over five million people are dependent on mahua for a significant proportion of their income. In all four states studied, mahua is generally bartered for daily grocery items, whose value is much more (do you man less than the actual value of mahua traded. Mahua collection and trade provides 28600 person years of employment out of a potential 163000 person years. On average, each person can collect about kg of dry flowers in a good flowering season. Flowering occurs over 4 to 6 weeks (March to May). Mahua yield increases with the girth and age of the tree average yield is 50.756 kg/tree.

Policy regulating mahua trade and hurdles to trade promotion Mahua is a nonnationalized item in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Orissa, however each of these states had different policies governing it trade Removal of this restriction can have a positive impact on the mahua-based enterprises as in case of Madhya Pradesh, where there has been a major increase in mahua liquor production since the state government lifted the restriction of maximum 5 liters storage of mahua liquor per family. Local people feel the removal of this restriction is a supportive policy as it provides employment opportunity consumption of mahua is part of tribal tradition through it may create some social problems.

Until 2007, mahua was traded from MP and Chattisgarh to Bihar in bulk. However, recently the Government of Bihar banned the entry of mahua to Bihar. This action was taken at the request of women's groups, who cited social problems arising from consumption of mahua liquor. Though as per the Orissa NTFP policy (2000), neither the Forest Department nor the state require a transit permit for interstate or intrastate trade, the Excise Department does levy a transit fee for the transportation of mahua.

In Madhya Pradesh the transit permit for interstate trade has been removed. In other states the mandatory transit permit creates. One of the ways of exploitation by middlemen is that they use faulty measuring balance to weight mahua flowers, which allows them to approx. 200 g each time it is weighted and at the end they gain 2-4 kg of extra material for which no prices are paid to the collectors.

In C. G., the GCC procures mahua at Rs. 6/kg however, if paid by minimum wage rate the price should be Rs. 7.15 / kg. In many cases the amount earned by collectors in one day is les than the minimum wage stipulated by the government, and sometimes the collectors do not even get the lower rates as they are exploited by local traders who use a barter system rather than cash payment. This phenomenon of distress selling is common in most mahua producing states where, out of the total mahua collected, 60 percent is consumed and 40 percent is sold to the local grocery in exchange of food. The latter may be either by barter or a monetized exchange, the exchange value of the barter is much lower than the actual price of the purchased material. In Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh the traders make an advance payment of the collectors and subsequently lake their produce at an abysmally low rate of Rs. 40-50 / per quintal. The distress selling is also due to lack of storage facilities with the tribals.


From the above study, we concluded that every part of mahua tree is used for economical purposes by the local people. The bark of mahua is used to cure leprosy and to heal wounds. Flowers of mahua are of high economic value and collected fresh in the morning (Fig 3). These flowers are eaten fresh and dried for use in preparation of various dishes. Mostly the dried flowers are used for distillation of "Mahua Liquor" which is very common in the tribal areas Mahua flowers yield alcohol @ 340 liters /tonne flower. Fruit pulp may also be used for alcohol production. Flowers are used as feed for livestock. The flowers are prepared to relieve coughs, biliousness and heart-trouble, while the fruit is given in cases of consumption and blood diseases. Ripe fruits of mahua are nutritious and are eaten raw or cooked and pulp after extraction of seeds is fed to cattle also. Seeds are of high economic value as used for the oil extraction. Kernel oil (solid at ambient temperature) is used for skin care and for manufacture of soaps, detergents and as a vegetable butter. The oil content of the seed varies from 33 to 43 percent of the kernel weight. Linoleic acid is the major unsaturated fatty acid found in pure oil which helps to reduce cholesterol level. There is lack of organized marketing process for mahua produce, it being essentially a forest crop. Only local middlemen purchase the dehulled kernels from villages and supply to wholesale markets who supply them to expellers. Oil can also be used as a fuel oil. The seed cake is a good fertilizer.


Madhy Pradesh HDR, (2007): Government of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal.

Prasad Ram and Bhatnagar, P. (1991): Socio-economics Potential of Minor Forest Produce in Madhya Pradesh, State Forest Research Institute, Bulletin No. 26, Jabalpur.

Prasad Ram and Bhatnagar, P. (1998): Non-Wood Forest Products of Central India, paper presented to Workshop on Sustainable NTFP Management, 27-30 November 1998, IIFM (unpublished)

An Overview of the Past and Current NTFP Policy Environment in Orissa, 2000.
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Author:Twari, S.C.; Gena, H.C.; Wankhede, K.G.; Bhat, S.A.
Publication:Political Economy Journal of India
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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