September 5, 2015
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    Research & Development

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    Natural Fibers of Uttaranchal: A Primer

    Fibers of both vegetable and animal origin were utilized by primitive man, long before the dawn of history, for the spinning of thread and cordage and the weaving of coarse fabrics. Fibers can be classified by origin and structure into:
    A. Plant fiber:

    There are around 40 different kinds of plant origin fibers available in the whole of Uttaranchal. Of this bunch, only a few are found to grow in abundance and are linked intrinsically to the tribal communities as part of the living craft cultures. While some level of economic activity is being undertaken centered on these fibers, pilot case studies have demonstrated the potential for industrialization and commercialization of this sector. Few of them are Agave cantala (Rambans), Grewia optiva (Bhimal), Cannabis sativa (Industrial Hemp), Stinging nettle Bhabar, Kansi, Munj and Pateri. On the basis of their structure the plant fibers can be classified as:
    · Soft fibers from bast or stem (jute, flax);
    · Hard fibers (leaf or structural fiber such as agaves, hemp, sisal and the like)
    · And surface fibers borne on the surface of stems, leaves, seeds (such as cotton)
    B. Animal fiber:

    Sheep wool, Goat wool, Rabbit wool, and Silk are the best examples of animal origin fibers which are in practice throughout Uttaranchal, along with the craft practice of exclusive Pashmina wool, trade in which is plied through Indo-Tibetan trade routes in the remote border valleys of Uttaranchal.
    According to the general use the fibers could be classified into the textile fibers used in the manufacture of textiles, including fabrics, netting and cordage; the brush fibers which are hard and used for making brushes, brooms and the like; Plaiting and weaving fibers which is again hard used in weaving straw hats, mats, baskets, chair seats, chairs and other forms of wicker work; filling fibers for stuffing purposes; and paper making fibers chiefly of wood fibers of various types including bamboo.

    Fiber in Uttaranchal: A SWOT Analysis


    Adaptability to geo climatic environment of the state
    Existing craft skills, community comfortable in working with material
    Support for the Tribal communities
    UBFDB as a facilitation agency
    Dwindling raw material resource and lack of management practices
    Lack of Tools, technology for industrial processing of natural fiber
    Lack of R & D for material/product diversification
    Lack of institutional support for the NF sector
    Global shift towards Natural Fiber, ecotextiles
    State Govt. policy facilitating procurement of forest produce
    Market acceptability of produce
    Income generation opportunity for marginalized
    Need for sustainable raw material management
    Need for coordinated result oriented focused R & D
    Need for Awareness Generation among stakeholders

    The competitive advantage that Natural fibers such as Bhimal, Sisal, Bhabar, Nettle etc., offers is that these are the only suitable species that abundantly thrives in the geo climatic conditions of the region. Effort can be targeted towards sustainable harvesting of the raw material. There is a high degree of craft skill in the tribal communities as evident among the Tharus, the Buxas for conversion of raw material into ready to use products. Through interventions by agencies such as CAPART, basic tools and machineries have reduced the drudgery involved in the process.
    Further modifications need to be made in the machinery so that the output quality of the processed fiber rope can be improved (making it thinner and finer ply for adaptability in the Handloom sector).

    At the same time, UBFDB designers have demonstrated the innovative applications of Natural Fibers, in new emerging markets such as use of Sisal, Bhimal, Nettle, Bhabar in handloom woven products such as Rugs, carpets or even chiks. Another encouraging application has been the successful use of bhabar baan for seat and back weaving in combination with bamboo furniture. It provides an eco friendly natural look and from the experience of UBFDB marketing initiatives is accepted widely in metros such as Delhi.

    These Natural Resources can be the vehicle for the marginalized tribals to ride to an improved quality of life. The community can take a giant leap forward if there is diversification in the end use of the processed fiber. The demand for eco textiles the world over can be targeted through appropriate Natural fiber based product designs which value add to the fiber and make it suitable for the furnishings market.

    Perhaps the weaving traditions can be initiated among the tribal groups so that the processed raw material can be converted on site into value added products, which will sell at a higher rate, generate additional income to the artisans thereby justifying the transportation costs involved in the supply chain.


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