Rural poverty in India is generally considered to be linked with the lack of access to cultivable land, or with its low productivity. Changes in the collection of gathered items from common property resources such as forests go largely unnoticed, and are not even presented in the national accounts. However, about 100 million people living in and around forests in India derive their livelihood support from the collection and marketing of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Thus the issue of rights and access to, and income from, NTFPs is basic to sustenance and livelihood for the forest dwellers. This paper describes how government policies and institutions during the last thirty years in the eastern coastal state of Orissa have affected forest dwellers” livelihoods based on collection of NTFPs. It also suggests policy measures that will help in improving forest dwellers” access to and income from NTFPs.