KRISHNAGIRI: It was yet another day for 40-year-old K. Mallappan who entered the forest, a few years ago for livelihood and that was the most fortunate day in his life for being alive after being attacked by the wild bear.
Mallappa, a tribal of Melsaathanakal village, on Denaknnikottai-Panchapalli road in Denkannikottai taluk of Krishnagiri has joined the list of others who survived the wild animal attack.
With no source of income for them, the tribal people who have been pushed out of the forest for some reason have to continue their traditional activity of collecting honey and other produces from the forest by risking their life.
"Our people enter forest for collecting honey and other forest produce for our survival and it is not an easy job. Sometimes they are attacked by the wild animals as in my case," Mallappa said.
He recalled the incident with a smile and showing the injuries inflicted in his body by the wild bear; "I was returning home happily with a big honey comb that day. A wild bear caught the smell (honey) came out of the bush and attacked me. Luckily I escaped with injuries in the fight between us for food."
Henceforth, it is not necessary for Mallapan and his community people of his village to risk their life for survival. They have been trained to convert waste weed to wealth.
Around ten families are busy making furniture from the plant 'lantana camara', a poisonous weed that is widely found in the Krishnagiri forest region.
"The infamous weed has moved to more than fifty countries from its native Central and South America. It is a threat to the bio-diversity of the region where it grows due to its fast growing nature and covering the open lands quickly," says Vivek Garady of Kenneth Anderson nature society (KANS).
He added "Other problem with lantana is the forest fire and also poisonous to the wild animals and livestock if consumed. Every year the forest department puts efforts to clear the weed. Its regeneration is much faster that the speed of uprooting the bushes"
A joint study conducted by KANS and the district forest department of how to control the weed has taken them to MM Hill in Karnataka where the local people have been trained to make furniture and other crafts using lantana branches. This activity gave a permanent solution for the problem in the Karnataka forest region.
The KANS took the help of "Ashoka trust for research in ecology and environment (ATREE)", an NGO that has trained the local people in MM hills to convert the waste weed to wealth. Few artisans from ATREE came to Melsaathanakal village and have trained the local tribal people in making the furniture and other craft materials from the lantana branches.
"It is profitable, but have problem in marketing our goods. We invite orders from the people who are interested in saving bio-diversity of our forest region and give livelihood to poor people like us," Mallappa said.