Bamboo for poverty alleviation

Ninglun Hanghal *

A sofa made entirely of Bamboo at Eco-Crafts Bazaar at Mapal Kangjeibung in Feb 2007
A sofa made entirely of Bamboo at Eco-Crafts Bazaar at Mapal Kangjeibung in Feb 2007 :: Pix - David M Mayum

At an exhibition of Bamboo and Cane production in Lamka (Manipur) various household items and creative gift pieces were displayed for public and sale. Items includes mugs, spoon, fork, baskets, pen stands, mobile stands and different decorative items among others. A group of bamboo and cane craftsmen in Churachandpur district underwent a skill up-gradation training during first week of December in Lamka, Manipur. They exhibit their work for public and attracted a lot of interest and curiosity.

The event was organised by NERCOMP North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project in collaboration with Zogam Bamboo Works. NERCOMP's main objective is to improve livelihood of vulnerable groups in sustainable manner and improve management of their resources. Beside various other trade promotions with use of natural and human resources, bamboo and cane products is one of the key focuses of skill enhancement and opportunity by NERCOMP due to its availability locally, and its traditional and environmental relevance.

NERCOMP Churachandpur an initiative under North-Eastern Council , Ministry of DoNER was launched in 2014. Since then it has been actively partnering with community based organizations in improving livelihood and economy of rural communities in the district.

Craftsmen Thangkhomang proudly displays his products and tirelessly explains about the art. He enthusiastically stated that he feels motivated and the new creations gave him a sense of pride and reinstate his belief that his work is sustainable for livelihood. Another craftsmen Paokhomang says that his work is a testimony of how bamboo and cane which is a natural resource is not only useful for technical reasons but for various other purpose beyond merely traditional use but for marketing and that can even provide them a 'trade' for livelihood and economy.

An expert in bamboo works Ginkhanpau who provided the training to the crafstmen said that there is a huge scope of bamboo and cane production in north-east India. 25 year old Ginkhanpau who is the founder and proprietor of Zogam Bamboo Works asserted that bamboo and bamboo based productions can be a one of the main source of livelihood for poor people particularly in rural hill areas.

This he said can further boost the economy at large. According to Ginkhanpau there is a huge demand for bamboo products not only in the local or national market but outside the country as well. In fact he reveal that demand actually exceed supply.

Bamboo is one of the abundant natural resources in north-east India, particularly in tribal hill areas. There are over 60 species of Bamboo in Churachandpur alone tells Ginkhanpau, who is doing an extensive surveys in his own personal level. A passion he developed over the years this bamboo expert who grew up in Lamka had witnessed and seen use of bamboo traditionally among the communities.

He naturally learnt through his experiences and subsequently found that Bamboo and cane alone has enough potential for a huge market locally, nationally and internationally. He says that an artist/ a craftsmen who may create a single item alone , such as tea tray or mugs, etc can provide enough income for a family "Such is the potential of Bamboo and bamboo product" he asserted.

Interested in Arts and Crafts, Ginkhanpau started putting his hand on bamboo since his early years. He started making pens and has a large collection of various designs, sizes and shapes. It slowly attracted interest among public in Lamka and has become a household name among communities. He is invited at by various local NGOs for providing training to local artisans. Today He exports his pens to US and Singapore and other countries. Fully concentrating on his work and aiming to break a "record" Ginkhapau said "My vision is to create the biggest pen in the world".

But it is not a simple work or an easy journey. The potentials and market apart, there are tremendous challenges and struggles. For Ginkhanpau it had been a lonely journey. He personally collects the raw material from forest or plantations including waste. He utilizes waste from used bamboo such as small twigs and branches which he created into a beautiful pens or household items and gifts.

He ran from pillar to post for generating awareness and its potential. "There is a need to do more work extensively and in a larger scale" he said "for a sustainable development this need state and CSOs and Platform like NERCOMP to get their acts together".

Ginkhanpau underscore the need and importance of state intervention in promoting bamboo products. According to Ginkhanpau there is ignorance on the potential of bamboo among the communities. Moreover communities too are not aware of their own human resource to fully utilized and maximize this raw material which is available locally.

Said Ginkhapau " State intervention in terms of finance and creating more opportunity awareness will go a long way in poverty alleviation". This he said will also encourage entrepreneurship among many unemployed youths. Promotion and more focus on Bamboo is socially and traditionally relevant since bamboo has been a part of life among tribals and hill people in north-east India.

Bamboo and Cane has been used by tribal communities since generation. One of the key use being construction of house, household items such as storing water, mats, baskets, weaving materials and many others.

This traditionally relevant resource and product can surely be further made contextual and further improved and upgraded for creating traditionally modern, socially productive, culturally relevant items and useful products. This will further promote tradition, preservation of knowledge which is also environment friendly and sustainable.

There has been tremendous focus on exploring resources and human capital in north-east India for improving economy in the region and country at large. Various summit and business talks have been held at various levels and platforms. Considering this it is of utmost important that Bamboo and Cane industry , small and large maybe looked into in a more deeper seriousness by the state and its agencies.

Exploring means of increase production of this locally available resource in a larger scale along with enhancement of human resource will play a key role and contribute in a huge way for economic advancement in north-east India, particularly in rural and tribal hill areas in the region.

* Ninglun Hanghal wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 30, 2017.

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