In order to empower indigenous women artisans in the bamboo value chain, Industree Foundation, a non-profit organisation working on sustainable livelihoods for women artisans, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) today inaugurated the Bamboo Resource Centre in Channapatna, Karnataka, in partnership with the Karnataka Chapter of the National Bamboo Mission.
This Resource Centre is a step toward setting up women-owned collectives in the bamboo value chain under Industree Foundation’s “Producer-Owned Women Enterprises” (POWER) Project, supported by USAID under the White House Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative launched by Ivanka Trump in 2019.
Highlighting the need to invest in empowering indigenous women artisans, Ramona El Hamzaoui, Acting Mission Director, USAID (India), said: ““Women are important contributors in their communities’ culture, traditions and economy and their skills must be acknowledged and supported. The W-GDP initiative aims to economically empower women across the globe and we are thankful to the Bamboo Mission in Karnataka for providing this facility for the project to achieve this goal. USAID is confident that these empowered women will spur positive social and economic impacts in their important communities.”
Inaugurating the Resource Centre, Sanjay Mohan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force, Forest Department, Government of Karnataka said, “Government shall look into sustained supply of required raw materials for women artisans skilled at this centre. Department is promoting bamboo plantations outside forest areas and on farmers’ fields. These plantations shall ensure sustained supply of bamboo in future. We are planning to put in a place FSC certification and chain of custody for bamboo products that shall help in getting higher value for the products.”
Neelam Chibber, Co-Founder and Managing Trustee, Industree Foundation, said, "At a time like this, when we are globally trying to deal with a pandemic, it is heartening to see multiple entities come together to support the creative sector, in particular women. Supported by USAID, the POWER project has helped us initiate a Bamboo Resource Centre in Channapatna and create a platform for the very skilled bamboo Medhar community to reach global buyers and the growing conscious consumers. These are examples of resilience and sustainability that need to grow and get replicated not only across India, but globally if we are to uplift people from poverty while safeguarding the planet."
The Medhars of Karnataka have been an integral part of the bamboo value chain since 1200 AD due to their skill and techniques. Yet, they have not benefited economically or socially due to lack of formal and consistent skilling initiatives. The Resource Centre will house a “Livelihoods and Business Incubator” which will help artisans, including Medhars, develop new products well-suited for global and Indian buyers and will showcase their rich and diverse products. This initiative will improve the artisans’ ability to evolve their practice, while empowering them economically and socially through profitable market opportunities.
The POWER project over three years will create 28 women-owned enterprises that will connect 6,800 women producers to commercial supply chains in natural and biodegradable products based on banana fibre, bamboo and non-timber forest products. Overall, the project will indirectly impact 54,560 individuals across craft communities.