Tribal communities, constituting about 15 per cent of Gujarat state’s population, bears disproportionately high burden of poverty and multiple deprivation. The growing disparity between tribal and non-tribal population in the state however, does not imply that tribals in the state are worse-off than those in other states in the country. The growing inequality along with wide spread deprivation calls for detailed probing into the extent, pattern, and correlates of poverty among these communities in the state. In fact, the problems faced by the tribal population, concentrated mainly in 43 talukas, have received increasing attention in the policies of the Government of Gujarat. However, it is imperative that regeneration of forest resources and tribal’s rightful access to these resources continue to play important role in the strategies for supporting livelihood of these communities in the state. This paper tries to look into the status of poverty and multiple deprivations among tribal communities in the state and explores policy options for strengthening their livelihoods through a combination of forest and non- forest based interventions.
The estimates suggest that monthly per capita expenditure on food items among poor-tribal is less than half compared to non-poor tribals in Gujarat. Also, the expenditure on health and education is significantly lower (Rs. 9.29) among poor as compared to non-poor (Rs.23.62) within the tribal communities. The study identified that shortage of food in tribal households is severe in 43 tribal dominated districts compared to non-tribes. Also tribal households as casual laborers have 36 percent higher poverty score than those with subsistence cultivation. Distress migration from tribal areas is a known phenomenon in the state and it is observed that almost half of the tribal households (47.9 per cent) having migrants either as casual laborers or seasonal workers as against one quarter of non migrant (25.86 per cent) households among the 43 tribal dominated talukas in the state. The results also pointed out that presence of forest villages has a significant positive correlation with proportion of vulnerable households in the talukas. This reinstated the importance of forest based livelihood options and communities’ entitlement to the resources in mitigating poverty among tribals in the state.