Lantana camara, an invasive weed from South America has rampantly spread in the forest areas of the pristine Western ghats, including Siruvani near Coimbatore. This aggressive forest colonizer has replaced many native species of plants. The control of this plant is difficult as it spreads very fast. Though the forest department has been taking measures to control the spread of the weed, it is practically impossible for them to root out the plant entirely. It can only be managed, but not entirely controlled.
To root out the plant inside the reserve forests, and to augment employment opportunities for the tribal communities here (who otherwise do farming for their livelihood), an idea was mooted- to start making furniture out of this weed. This generates sustainable livelihood opportunities for the tribal community, and they can do this along with farming.
Market linkages are being established in Coimbatore and other major cities in India with the help of Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED). The tribal communities are first trained to collect the raw material and process them. They are then taught wood curving techniques and developing the product. Natural dyeing and colouring process is taught to them, and finally there is drilling and assembling of the product.
There is a great demand for such furniture as they reduce pressure on cane, and are found to be sturdy. However, the forests where lantana is gathered are also home to elephants and the danger posed by them limits the collection activities of the women.
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