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Contribution of Underutilized Plants in Food and Livelihood Security in Tinsukia District

Sanchayeeta Gohain, Sanjoy Borthakur, Priyanka Amonge and M. Neog

  • Page No:  001 - 005
  • Published online: 04 Feb 2022
  • DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.23910/2/2022.0440

  • Abstract
  •  sanchayeeta@aau.ac.in

Underutilized plants though have a great potential towards contribution of improvement of livelihood income and nutritional security, they are not properly explored. A study was carried out in Tinsukia District with the help of a questioner and focus group discussion with the objective to identify the importance of underutilized crops at farmer’s level. Data was collected from 120 families and the study showed that there are many minor underutilized crops mainly fruits (40%), leafy vegetables (54.5%), and herbals (29%) which are not only subsidizing to the food requirement and nourishment of the family but also generating an extra income at household level and also are being used to treat the minor disorders at local level.

Keywords :   Food security, medicinal values, underutilized crops 

  • Introduction

    Underutilized plants are species with under-exploited potential for contribution to food security, health, income generation and environmental services. The advantages of these crops are humongous as these crops not only help to address the issues of food and nutrition security but also improve the household livelihood and adds to the sustainable environment. But despite of these benefits, the role of the underutilized crops is often overlooked or under estimated. So far, out of the estimated 75,000 species of edible plants (Gautam and Singh, 1998), only about 150 species have been widely used ninety percent of the world’s total food is provided by only 30 species of these widely used plants only.

    Underutilized crops are those crops which though are consumable to the human beings but are relatively less appetizing/appealing than other conventional fruits. They also have lesser demand in the market and are grown to a restricted degree and are not usually cultivated in organized plantations with application of inputs. Underutilized crops are generally characterized by the fact that (i) they are locally abundant, but restricted in their geographical dispersion with a high use value, (ii) they are widely adaptable to agro-ecological niches/marginal areas, (iii) it lacks scientific knowledge about them, and (iv) their current use is limited relative to their economic potential. Minor fruit species act as life support species in extreme environmental conditions and threatened habitats and have tolerance to survive under harsh climate conditions. If minor food crops are properly utilized, they may help to contribute in food security, nutrition, health, income generation and environmental services (Kunkel, 1984). The underutilized or unexploited crops are not only good in taste but also nutritive and a regular component of local diet. These crops are rich source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and polyphenols which provide health benefits (Nurzery et al., 2013). Moreover, these crops are playing a vital role in nutrition and livelihood of rural and tribal masses for employment and income generation. In India, about 27% of the fruit production consists of a number of minor fruits and there are nearly 150 of consumable species of minor fruits in India (Majumder, 2004). But the cultivation of these fruits on a commercial scale is not yet attempted and hence can be a major reason that their trade remains restricted. However, many are of considerable economic importance in their respective regional markets (Anang and Chang, 1999).

  • Materials and Methods

    The study was carried out in three randomly selected blocks of Tinsukia district namely Guijan, Hajjam and Kakopathar. Out of these blocks, ten villages were randomly selected namely Na Matapung, DighalSaku, Jaigokhuwa, Matiakhana, MautgaonPanitola, Baruahula, Dirak, Kakopathar and Kathalguri. From each village, twenty farm families are selected for the study. The age group of the respondents varied from 28 years to 60 years. A questioner was prepared to conduct the study. Focus group discussion, semi structured interviews were also conducted to gather the in-depth information on relevant aspects of underutilized crops. During the survey, farmers were interviewed about the local names of edible wild plants, palatable parts, cooking and eating methods, use of these crops on health problems, seasonal availability of the crops and the approximate prices for retail at the market.

    The interview was followed by field observations of available specimens and samples were collected for proper identification. Frequency and percentage are the tools used for statistical analysis.

  • Results and Discussion

    Various underutilized edible crops are found in Tinsukia district. Among fruit crops, amora, sikikha, jolphai, amkhali, rohdoi were most commonly found. Among vegetables, laisak, baborisak, sukasak, dhekia, kochuu, kolmou, jilmilsak, khutura were most prevalent and consumed regularly. In case of medicinal plants, the utilization of some plants like nephaphu, manimuni, bramhi, dulbon, bhadailota, sukloti were very much widespread in daily life (Table 1)

    3.1.  Contribution of underutilized crops to the nutritional security to the family

    The role of minor crops in the nutritional security of the family is large. Generally, out of the three meals per day, at least one meal is prepared of underutilized crops. Underutilized crops contribution to the food requirement of a family was measured by calculating the number of whole meals prepared by the family with   underutilized crops in a given fortnight. Generally, the total no of meals per fortnight is 45 considering 3 number of meals per day and there are 15 days in a fortnight The highest number of families (39.16%) has consumed 10-18 numbers of meals, produced from the underutilized crops (31% of the food requirement) per fortnight. The highest number of meals produced using underutilized crop was 28-36 per week and such number of meals are consumed by 18.33% families of the area which contribute 60% of the food requirement per fortnightly (Table 2).

    These findings point out that a substantial level of food requirement of the family is contributed by the underutilized crops at the house hold level. Highest share of underutilized crops in food requirement is 71% which cover about 28-36 number of meals.

    3.2.  Contribution as the extra income for the family

    Apart from supporting the food requirement of a family, these underutilized crops also contribute to the total income of the family. Out of all the families interviewed, 60.83% of the families sell the minor crops in local markets apart from consumption at house hold level which contributes towards an extra income to the families. 19.71% of the families earn an extra income within the range of Rs. 501 to 1000 in a month. The percentage of households which earn more than 1500 by selling the minor crops at market is 8.05 (Table 3).

    3.3.  Use of underutilized crops as herbals for simple health disorders

    There are many crops which apart from being used as food also has medicinal properties. Many simple health problems are treated by these locally available plants. In this study, it is found that majority of the people (53%) use underutilized crops 1 to 3 times per fortnight. From the study it can be observed that the utilization of underutilized crops as source of medicine is very much prevalent (Table 4).

  • Conclusion

    It was apparent from the present study that the contribution of the underutilized crops both in terms of nutritional security and economic security is enormous. Again, they also contribute to the medicinal benefits. But the development of the crops at farmers level is still very limited. Motivation of the farmers to go for commercial cultivation of these underutilized plants is the cry of the time. For that, supplying of inputs required is the first priority. Provision of marketing facilities, storage and processing facilities are also required for the proper establishment of the underutilized crops. As the research and development programmes are limited in underutilized crops, initiation of proper research programs to improve these crops is also necessary along with operative policy frameworks to popularize these crops among city dwellers.


  • Anang and Chang, 1999. Tropical and subtropical fruit. Retrieved from http;//www.enotes.com

    Gautam, P.L., Singh, A.K., 1998. Agro-biodiversity and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) related issues. Indian Journal of Plant Genetic Resources 11(2), 129–151.

    Kunkel, G., 1984. Plants for human consumption. Koeltz Scientific books, Koenigstein, Germeny.

    Majumder, B.C., 2004. Minor fruit crops of India-tropical and sub-tropical. Daya Publishing house New Delhi.

    Nurzery, H., Brahma, S., Basumatary, S., 2013. Wild edible vegetables consumed by Boro tribe of Kokrajhar District(Assam), North East India. Archives of Applied Science Research 5(5), 182–190.


Gohain S, Borthakur S, Amonge P, Neog M. Contribution of Underutilized Plants in Food and Livelihood Security in Tinsukia District IJEP [Internet]. 04Feb.2022[cited 8Feb.2022];9(1):001-005. Available from: http://www.pphouse.org/ijep-article-details.php?art=304

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