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A Sustainable Livelihood Initiative that helps Women Empowerment and curbs Global Warming is also a CSR activity – from www.greenearthculture.com

January 10, 2014

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In the year 2010, Greenearth Culture embarked on a journey to develop a profit-for-all social enterprise. An enterprise that will propagate the use of bamboo in our daily lives and re-develop a much neglected and conventional product called the bamboo matte.

 

There are a large number of women artisans (in India) from below poverty line families skilled in bamboo craft, but refrained from it due to lack of economic returns and unjust association of the product with social discrimination. The traditional perception of bamboo as a low cost material for short term applications coupled with meager financial returns has kept this sector from developing into a full fledged industry. Craft workers possessing inherent traditional skills ended up doing menial jobs, which in turn, led to increasing number of people engaging in vices thereby affecting basic family life and community living.  The lack of opportunities compelled some of these skilled artisans to migrate to cities to engage in low paying jobs.

 

We realized that if the existing skill levels could be upgraded and nurtured well, we might get better results.  Thus we embarked on the journey to rethink, redesign and redevelop the product by giving it a totally new form, function and aesthetics.  Along the way, we studied the design strategies of some unique products of the world.  The idea was to incorporate hardcore design intervention and create a more sophisticated version of the bamboo mattes.

 

Method

Our first important step was to identify a few highly skilled craft workers who would be willing to learn to refine their own skills to match up to our quality control levels. A few failures later, we had a team of experts in each individual part of the pre-process of preparing the base materials in-house by the quality standards we created using upgraded tools and equipments.  The village teams of weavers were also identified.  We conducted a few trial production runs initially to understand the skills sets.  Once the team was set with different roles, we started sending the base materials to them. After a few wrong starts and stops, we had the completed sheets coming back to the factory. Since we had inculcated Kaizen principles at the village level too, we got a very low rejection rate.  To keep the motivation levels high we introduced a new financial payment system.  Instead of the per day basis, which was predominant in these areas, we presented the per unit method of payments.  First it was treated with suspicion, but eventually when the best craft workers started earning more due to the quantity and quality of production, the other members started realizing the benefits.  It did not take time for the village team to realize that they were in fact treated as micro entrepreneurs, instead of workers.  They had the freedom to work as and when they please and they were in control of their financial income.  It also created a heightened awareness for quality and timely deliveries.  A fast change came into these very people who were once lethargic.  They opened up to accepting new ideas and techniques of achieving higher quality of productivity.

 

We established a pre-processing unit in June 2011 to enhance the quality of the bamboo mattes by treating it with eco-friendly preservatives and natural dyes for extended life.  We also introduced design interventions to create new patterns and designs.  Thus was born  – an eco-friendly alternative to surface lamination. We christened it as CHIVA – meaning bamboo in the local lingua. CHIVA also has an extended application for product design, packaging and of course, the imagination of the users.

 

Benefit

We believe that our efforts will have a multi-effect – economic, social and environmental.

 

Social and economic – While reviving a dying art, it will help generate income for the artisans thereby enabling them a better social and quality life (Sustainable Livelihood Initiative). 

 

As a CSR activity, corporate could encourage and opt for CHIVA bamboo matte products or applications in various aspects of their businesses.

 

Environmental – Since it is produced out of bamboo – a self-rejuvenating wonder plant, it also helps curb the effects of Global Warming.  Bamboo is proven to be an important resource for filtering air and cleaning wastewater.

 

Last but not least, it helps in Women Empowerment since all our artisans are women.

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