October 21, 2014
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    Main Natural Fibers indigenous to Uttarakhand


    Bhabar

    Bhabar (Eulaliolopsis binata) is a common grass growing in abundance in the Shivalik ranges. Bhabar grows in plains, starting from altitudes of 300 m above sea level, in sandy to silt loam soils, and thrives in dry conditions. It has several uses, e.g.; in manufacture of paper, in rope making (commonly called "baan"), as packing material and for feeding to cattle. Bhabar grass is a prime non wood forest product of the region and has high economic value for few communities engaged in the extraction and processing of the natural resource and few industries. (Such as Paper) Bhabar grass matures and becomes ready for harvesting as a fiber material by November and over the next few months till March end, bhabar is harvested and graded for further trading in the market.
    The first harvest is often graded A and is golden in coloration, and supple and therefore stronger. The second harvest B and the last harvest graded as C display slow discoloration of the grass fiber and brittleness of the fiber, leading to poor strength. The intact fiber lengths called "Pula" (bundle unit of 5 kg) is used for making ropes while the broken ends, left over pieces called "Lugdi" is used in paper pulp industry. (Source: Interviews with Contract field staff, Bhabar Depot, Laldhang, district Haridwar)

    In Uttaranchal itself, Bhabar grass is a traditional resource utilized by the poorest of the poor, the Buxa tribe, which is heavily dependent on the grass economy for a major part of the year.
    The Buxas extract the bhabar in small quantities for conversion into ropes. In Nayagaon village, Laldhang , District Haridwar, today it is common practice that the contractors distribute the raw material to the Buxa villagers, who convert the raw fiber into rope and sell it back to the contractors for a going rate of upto Rs. 50 per dhari (approx. 5 kgs). 

    In Laldhang, District Haridwar, the Buxas were provided with rope making machines a few years back at the intervention of CAPART. These machines are able to reduce the drudgery involved in conversion of the raw material to the rope. On an average, between their other household activities, the villagers use this foot pedal operated rotary mechanism combined with a feeding hopper to produce up till 3-5 kg of rope per day. Assuming an income of Rs. 50 per day, on an average, a family can earn uptill 1500 per month during the harvest season.

    However the demand is dwindling over the past few years, as cheaper plastic versions/ substitutes have flooded the market for ropes. At the same time, due to excessive degradation of forest lands, the annual production has drastically come down. The survey team of UBFDB found during one of the craft surveys that in one particular Bhabar collection depot, the annual production 25 years back was up to 30000 quintals, while in 2005 it has shrunk to a measly 1000 quintals.

    This has direct bearing on the resource dependent community, the Buxas. If the fiber demand dwindles further, the Buxas will lose their source of livelihood, their unique craft skill, and the comfortable adaptability to the rope making machine.
    There is an urgent need to retain the craft skill of the Buxas in making bhabar ropes, at the same time ensuring sustainable supply of raw material and creation of new market/ applications for the resource so as to distribute the risks of catering to dwindling/competitive markets such as ropes or paper industry.




    World over, there are approximately 300 species of Sisal or Agave. It is a plant of the Agavacae family. A few species were found to yield Fiber, the first of which was Agave sisalana, and thus the name sisal fiber became of common use.
    The plant is supposed to be indigenous to the Central Americas
    . Around the 15th century, this plant spread in
    EuropeAfrica

    Sisal (Rambans)


    Agave is a perennial plant, large rosette like shrubs, identified by its 50 to 150 thick spiky long, rigid, spirally arranged, leaves. The spike leaves are bunched together on a short stem. Upon maturation, the plant yields a pale yellowish/shiny white fiber. After growing for a number of years (4-10) a large inflorescence is produced and this exhausts the plant, where upon it dies. The leaves are cut to yield the fiber.

    Fiber from A.sisalana, is strong, coarse and more flexible than Manila hemp. This fiber has come into extensive use in recent years, but its production inIndia is not much. . The fiber can be separated by retting. They are then washed and dried in the sun. The leaves of A. cantala yield 3 to 4.5 percent of fibers. A. Americana yields an excellent fiber; it is very durable for ropes and cordage.

    Sisal is used for manufacture of marine and industrial ropes, Decorative handicraft and utility items, reinforcement of corrugated polyester sheets, in textile industry. Sisal extract waste is used in manufacture of alcohol, bio-pesticide, bio-compost and also used in manufacture of acids and pharmaceutical products. Sisal is used a live fencing material and also used for soil conservation purposes.

    In Uttaranchal, several NGOs have been working with Sisal fiber for the past several years, such as Women's Development Organisation, WDO, (Dr. Mrs. K.K. Sharma), Girish Griha Resha Udyog, Kotdwar, (Mr. Girish Kandwal) and HOPE, Pilkholi Ranikhet, (Mr. Prakash Joshi).
    They have demonstrated successfully the commercial potential of Sisal fiber handicrafts.
    However, today sisal fiber is proving to be expensive as the raw material plantation, management and supply chains are not developed to cater to industrial requirements. Sisal fiber today is being extracted by decorticator, which apart from being highly unsafe, does not provide good quality fibers; they are uneven which can not support development of good textiles. The machine does not have provision for collection of other fluid content and dust etc. so the fluid goes waste despite having good potential of use as pesticides and bio compost.

     


    Bhimal (Grewia optiva)

    Bhimal is a very useful tree, grown extensively in the state for its multiple uses. This is one of largely available fiber materials in mountain region, available in the forests and cultivation both.The leaves are used as fodder for animals. The local use of this material is for rope making.
    On the commercial run this material has not reached to a stage where it could be seen as a marketable product, which can also be seen as the state identity product line.
    There is need of using this natural fiber in such a way that it creates its own identity. As this material is coarse in raw form, the next stage would be to follow up on developing R & D for fine yarn development to help diversify the fiber into textile products. Today, only twining and twisting are the regular methods in practice by local people.

    If yarn is developed, product lines such as home products like, mats, rugs, blinds and lamps can be developed. Material combination can also be done like bamboo, Jute and sisal blends.



    Industrial Hemp , (Cannabis sativa L.)

    Industrial Hemp has traditionally been cultivated in villages of Uttaranchal for household purpose. According to the information collected during field research conducted by UBFDB, the villagers specify that there are two types of plants which grow from the same seed; one from which seeds are collected for spices and leaves are utilized for drugs extraction whereas the other plant is used for flowers and fibres. However, this has been observed that fibres are extracted from both the plants. It is maintained that the Hemp species growing for domestic purpose consists less % of narcotics. Approximate length of the plant is 2- 2.5 mts.

    The field survey done in May 2005 in Adibadri region of Chamoli district presents the current status of Industrial hemp cultivation and awareness. There are around 135 villages in this belt and they are known for good industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) cultivation. Industrial hemp cultivation culture is common but limited quantity is grown by villagers approximately 200-400 sq ft. is being used by each family for their daily use. From each house app. 25 kgs of fibres get produced. Assuming that there are around 120-140 families in one village, total quantity of fibre that comes out of one village is app.3350 kgs. People use its seed for spices, stem for fibres and firewood. Fibres are used for rope making for household utility.

    Handicraft skill in the Industrial hemp fibre sector is not observed anymore in this belt. However it was learnt during the field survey that hemp fibres and yarns were used for producing coarse textiles, blankets, sacks and jackets till 1940s. Elderly family members of the Pabila tribes used to practice this craft for their basic needs. But now there is no evidence of this culture. There used to be a specific solid wooden spinning wheel which was used for hemp yarn making. Few pieces of samples about 50-70 years old, have been collected by UBFDB which showcases the exclusivity of materials and techniques of that age.


    Stinging Nettle

    Himalayan Nettle (Urtica dioica L.) is largely available in the forests and in and outskirts of the villages without any utilization. People are not aware of using these hemp and nettle fibres for textile purpose, in local villages, at present these fibres are used only for rope making. Lack of awareness and no existence of the machineries and tools exclusively for these fibres have left them underdeveloped and unexplored in this region.

    At an individual stage different experiments are being done by locals/ NGOs/ Organizations such as the Board sponsored Integrated Design and Technical Development workshops on natural fiber conducted in collaboration with Jai Nanda Uthan Samiti, at Bhimatalla, Chamoli and Premnagar, Dehra Dun. Fibre processing techniques experimented by the locals is labour intensive.

    Existing fiber extraction process for Himalayan nettle and Industrial hemp is very complex and labor intensive there are no tools or equipment have been justified to this stage of the fiber process.

    There is a small number of private entrepreneurs, have taken little initiatives by leveraging Traditional skill in weaving and spinning to use Nettle for commercial purpose, like Panchachuli Women Weavers Association, Almora and Mr Krishnanand Joshi, Darchula Nepal.


    Tharu grasses

    The Tharus use a variety of seasonal natural fibers available in the region. The materials available in and around their habitat and used by them are -
    ·
    Kans (grass)
    · Munj (grass)
    · Pateri (grass)
    . Seenk or urai (grass)
    · San (jute)
    · Khajoor ka patta (palm leaves)
    · Mom (wax)
    · Uun (wool)

    The variety of grass grows mainly next to the seasonal ponds or large water resources. The availability of this material is therefore best during and immediately after the monsoons. In other season the availability becomes difficult or the grass dries up making it difficult to work with. Munj and
    KansKans

    One of the main bottlenecks that have been observed with the craft scenario of the Tharus is the low availability of the raw material for the craft. The raw material is getting increasing difficult to collect due to non-availability of fallow land, the material is available only during the four to five months preceding the rains, and the amount of rainfall has a direct bearing on the raw material base. The community has to travel long distances to collect the material and even has to procure on payment basis during off season, this has a direct impact on the production. The project aims at transforming the craft into an enterprise mode and the most vital element in this will be the timely and economically feasible raw material base for the community.

    Locally available 'Kans' is used to weave the basket with the help of a basic tool which is in the form of a thick needle. This is locally known as 'suja'. They also use a pair of scissors or a blade to trim the unwanted grass. For the process of weaving they collect few sticks of kans

    Seenk is also used for baskets. The colour absorption is best in seenk. Locally available chemical colours are used for colouring grass in basic red, magenta, green, yellow, and purple colour. Among the motifs, flower, human figure, animal figures (elephant, deer), hut, tree from their surroundings are popular. They put these motifs by tying differently coloured kans and maintaining the motif as the weave progresses.
    Weaving on handloom, knitting, sewing are some of the techniques which are popular. Pateri is used for chatai or mat weaving. These are used as spread on charpais and on floor for sitting.
    San (jute) is grown locally in small areas of their agriculture land where water availability is abundant. This could be due to the contact and influence of a small Bengali settlement at Sitarganj, which is situated nearby. They use san for rope from which they make household products and use. After the jute is removed from the stems of the plants, the stems are dried on the roof top and are used as an excellent fuel for cooking esp. for igniting the fire. Existing product range in the cluster includes:

    Due to the seasonal nature of the basic raw material for the craft, the nature of employment generated out of craft activity also has a seasonal inclination. There is a need to promote cultivation of the grasses used for the craft within the vicinity of the clusters. This will be beneficial in reducing the time required in the procurement of the raw material. Plantation
    of the said grass needs to be promoted if this enterprise has to scale up its commercial operations and sustain the craft based livelihood.

     

     

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