The insect Laccifer Lacca, living off the sap of certain trees, secretes lac resin. The processed resin is called Shellac and has numerous industrial applications including in the food and drug industries. India is a major producer of Shellac.
Among the Adivasis, Lac rearing and cultivation is a traditional occupation, and has proved to be an important source of income for thousands of poor families. However, the full potential of lac rearing and cultivation is yet to be tapped; the activity can generate higher incomes for the poor of the East Indian plateau region.
Despite its importance, lac cultivation is beset with numerous risks and uncertainties. For one, technological advances have not filtered down to the rearers, and they are unable to access adequate working capital to buy brood lac (mother insects). Furthermore, the availability and quality of the brood lac is highly uncertain. The lac insect itself is highly vulnerable to predators, diseases and natural elements, and no insurance mechanism exists to mitigate such risks.
PRADAN works to revive a dying traditional livelihood by helping to enhance incomes of lac rearers. In collaboration with the Jharkhand Government and the Indian Lac Research Institute (ILRI), PRADAN provides technical trainings on modern rearing techniques to local Adivasi youth and promotes technologies developed by ILRI.
Methods for rearing on alternative host trees such as Palash and Kusum have been successfully initiated.
As on March 2015, PRADAN's intervention in lac cultivation Programme has reached 4,000 families (approx).