A number of forest communities have been living in forest fringe areas of the south-western part of the state of West Bengal, India for centuries. From this dry-deciduous Sal(Shorea robusta) forest area, forest villagers collect forest products for their daily household needs as well as they also sell a proportion of products at the local market. In socio-cultural life of these forest communities, the surrounding forest has a great impact. Minor forest products or non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are used for medicine, worship, decoration, jewellery, food, fodder, firewood etc. As the physiography of the region is not suitable for agricultural activities and the irrigation system is not developed enough, the surrounding forest plays a significant role in forest livelihoods. Nonetheless, the uses of NTFPs in the social life of these socio-economically deprived communities (mostly tribal and/or indigenous) are quite apparent. NTFP producing plants are worshiped in different seasons, particularly prior to the harvest of products to ensure future supply. Different forest communities celebrate several social, religious and cultural festivals where forest and forest products are inevitable. There are some sacred groves found in the study area from where forest dwellers do not collect any forest products for daily household needs or commercial purpose. Therefore, these areas are quite uninterrupted compared to surrounding forests. How the importance of forest products in daily life makes forest dwellers aware about the conservation of the native forest is the theme of this paper. To explore the forest-based knowledge of aboriginal native dwellers, a number of socio-cultural issues have been addressed in the current study. For the collection of primary data and information, a number of qualitative methodologies including questionnaire survey, interviews, group discussion and direct participation and observation techniques were used. To crosscheck the findings from primary data some secondary sources were also referred. Among other sources, state and central government annual reports, previous research and project reports, related journal papers and newspaper reports received priority.
Key words: Non-timber forest products, forest dwellers, culture, forest conservation, India.
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