Over 10 lakh traditional bamboo craftspersons of the Medhar community in Karnataka are set to piggyback on global brands such as Ikea with the help of the National Bamboo Mission.
As a precursor to this, Industree Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to develop sustainable livelihoods for women artisans, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Wednesday opened the Bamboo Research Centre in Channapatna, in partnership with the Karnataka chapter of the mission.
To start with, the research centre that has come up at Channapatna Crafts Park will support over 100 Medhar families in the nearby areas. Supporting bamboo centres will also set up in Hunsur, Nanjangud, Koppa, and tribal areas of Karwar and Dandeli.
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, particularly women.”
This resource centre is the first step towards setting up women-owned collectives in the bamboo value chain under the Industree Foundation’s ‘Producer-Owned Women Enterprises’ (POWER) project, supported by the USAID under the White House Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative launched by Ivanka Trump in 2019.
Inaugurating the resource centre, Sanjay Mohan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force, Forest Department, government of Karnataka, said, “The government shall look into sustained supply of required raw material for women artisans skilled at this centre. The department is promoting bamboo plantations outside forest areas and on farmers’ fields.”
The Medhars of Karnataka have been an integral part of the bamboo value chain since centuries, but have not benefited economically or socially owing 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.