In India majority of thr rural population depend on agriculture as a source of income, however the revenue generated out of it is very meagre at the farm level. Hence people depend on other alternatives to enhance their income, the most widely practised is the collection and selling of fuelwood. However as it leads to deforestation collection of fuelwood is being banned by various state Governments.The business of fuelwood, primarily conducted by villagers in and around forests, has an annual turnover of US$ 16.54 billion, according to estimates of the Ministry of Environment and Forests'' (MoEF) National Forestry Action Programme -- nearly one-fourth of India''s foreign exchange reserves.However the poor villagers especially the women mainly act as midwives in this trade.On an average basis they have to walk 9km daily, carry 35kg load on their heads to just earn 15Rs.It is a very sad scenario where these poor people have to bribe forest guards to train conductors as this business is considered as a threat to the environment and is illegal.
The fuelwood trade is no longer about filling the huge gap between demand and supply of fuelwood, as was believed decades ago. Today, it is a survival option forced on the country''s poor. It has become the new expression of ecological degradation in villages, which base their economy primarily on biomass. More and more people are finding fuelwood collection their last livelihood option, as they lose their incomes from agriculture and forests. Fuelwood collection becomes the best choice: all that is needed is the physical labour to transport the wood from the forests to the market.
The fuelwood sector should be organised along the lines of the dairy sector. Being unorganised and predominantly women-managed, institutions should be developed within villages to provide a means for marketing at the grassroots level. These bodies could act as channels to the market and prevent the need for every woman to go to the marketplace herself. Such institutions could also conduct other women-related developmental programmes aimed at generating additional income.