The threads that doesn’t run out

Rafiqul Islam
Wednesday, October 4th, 2017


 

Dosim Bawm, a 46-year-old ethnic woman of Bethel Para under Ruma Upazila, said she had started weaving their traditional handlooms since she was 15.

 

“Generally, we weave handlooms or handicrafts when we have no agricultural works in the hills. Preparing handlooms help us face the lean period when we have no work,” she said.

 

But, the ethnic handloom weaver, said they had often faced problems in collecting yarn to prepare handlooms for lack of money, which adversely hit their livelihood in the past.

 

“Now we don’t face any such problem after we have set up a Yarn Bank in our community at Bethel Para. We take loan from the bank to buy yarn for producing handlooms,” Dosim said, adding that she took Tk 600 from the Yarn Bank last year, but it helped her buy yarn for producing handlooms.

 

Zingminsiam Bawm, another ethnic weaver, said she produced many handloom products taking loan from the bank last year and sold those at good prices.

 

“I participated in a fair last year to present our products and got a huge response from local and international buyers,” she said.

 

The community-based Yarn Bank has been helping ethnic women of the district improve their livelihood as they are now producing handloom products taking loan from the bank.

 

Like Dosim and Zingminsiam, some 60 ethnic women of Bethel Para are now producing handlooms taking loans from Yarn Bank installed there under the Rural Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation in the Himalayas (Himalica) Initiative of the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

 

ICIMOD, in collaboration with the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MoCHTA), set up four Yarn Bank branches in Ruma Upazila of the district.

 

The Himalica initiative aims to support poor and vulnerable mountain communities in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) to improve livelihoods in the context of socioeconomic and climate change, and the conservation of ecosystem services through active regional cooperation.

 

Focus of Himalica is development of rural livelihoods through promoting climate resilient practices. Income diversification, enterprise development, skills/capacity development, institutional strengthening, and demonstration of climate smart technologies are key intervention areas.

 

Himalica Projects agriculture officer Aung Shew Marma said ethnic women take loans from the banks and deposit their handloom goods, which value is equivalent to the loans they took, to the banks for regenerating banks fund.

 

Kya Thui Ching Talukdar, a business development officer of the project, said four Yarn Bank branches have been set up here alongside forming bank committees. He said training has been given to committee members to customise products as per market demand with basic skills of crafting, measurement, and techniques.

 

Besides trainings that imparted technical knowledge, committee members operational capacity has been ensured through support of resource materials worth Tk 200,000 to each Yarn Bank committee.

 

Bandarban has tremendous potential to offer beautifully-crafted handlooms to the visitors. It has unique patterns and artisan craftsmanship. However, there are two constraints that pose difficulty in harnessing the potential– a competitive design with changing market dynamics and unavailability of quality raw materials.

 

Bandarban is a popular tourism destination. The area’s pleasant environment, its surrounding hills and easy access routes are critical pull factors which have led to a rapid increase in tourist arrivals in recent years. However, community preparedness for benefiting from tourism both at the strategic and community levels is not yet in place. This is why the government Himalica tourism pilot project is promoting farm and non-farm activities linking with tourism, value chain development, and institutional capacity building. Establishment of the Yarn Bank is part of government efforts to engage local communities in tourism with their attractive handloom products.

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