Indigenous lac culture and local livelihood: a case study of Karbi community of Assam, North-Eastern India
The indigenous lac culture of Karbi community inhabiting West Karbi Anglong district of Assam is highlighted in this paper. A total of 114 knowledge holders were identified through chain referrals method from three representative villages of Ameri Block for the study. Karbis reared lac insects twice in a year on naturally growing host plants either in the forest areas or in homegardens. A total of eight unique host plants except Ziziphus mauritiana and Ficus religiosa were observed to be used by the community for rearing lac insect. They preferred bigger host plants such as, Ficus benghalensis, F. religiosa and Albizia lucidior due to higher lac yield and lesser labour requirement. An individual F. religiosa and F. benghalensis tree could produce about 120-200 kg of sticklac in a season. The average annual household production of sticklac ranged from 679 to 776 kg in the studied villages and contributed to about 25-30% of annual household income. Karbis traditionally use lac as natural dye, binding agent, polishing earthen pots and also as medicine for chest and joint pains. Factors like uncertain production, high fluctuation in market prices and unorganized nature of the venture have been identified as the major constraints for the sustainability and up-scaling the practice.
Host plants; Indigenous knowledge; Livelihood; Market value; Non Timber Forest Product; Sticklac
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