If you go to any tribal area in India, you will invariably see tribal women entering forest areas early in the morning (before 6 A.M.) in search of fuel wood. While wood is collected for their households (wood is still the main source of energy for cooking), many also sell them.
In Bastar, Chhattisgarh, we managed to capture stories of two women selling wood. Pagua waits for a village hat (weekly market) to sell a small quantity of wood that she carries from her house. She does not have a vehicle to carry her wood, and she does not want to pay Rs. 10 (approximately USD 0.20) for transportation. Thus, she walks 7 km every week with whatever wood she can carry.
On the day we met Pagua, we saw her coming with her wood. She waited for 1.5 hours for someone to come and purchase her wood. She managed to sell her wood for Rs. 80 (approximately USD 1.6). With that money, she purchased some vegetables. She sighs, “I waste the entire day just to make Rs 80 so I can purchase some vegetables- if only I have a market next to my house”
Bilasiya is luckier – her house is next to the highway. She collects wood from the nearby jungle, and she does not have to walk to the weekly market to sell her wood. As her house is next to the highway, it is easier for customers to purchase wood from her directly. However, while Pagua manages to sell a stack of wood for Rs. 80, Bilasiya only manages to get Rs 30 per stack. The customer told us, “If I purchase this in the market, I have to pay Rs 100. If I take it directly from her house, I pay only Rs 30. I am a driver, and I pass by her house every day. So it is easier for me to collect wood from her directly.” Bilasiya knows that she is losing money, but she shares “ I am too old to visit the market, and I know I am losing money – if only there is a market close by”.