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Grassroots families retain bamboo baskets making profession in Rajshahi

November 9, 2022 9:55 pm
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Many people are still making different types of bamboo baskets, gears and artifacts meeting up the growing social and commercial demands despite various teething troubles and limitations.

Grassroots communities, particularly the ethnic minority and other marginalized ones, are making and marketing their bamboo products for survival for long in the region including its vast Barind tract.

But, their work pressure rises to a great extent during every harvesting and marketing season of mango, litchi, guava and tomato. Then all the family members irrespective of ages and genders pass their busy times.

The manufacturers collect bamboo from local markets and sell the finished products locally while small traders purchase the items from different villages and sell those to various regional markets.

In the present social context, bamboo crafts and gears are widely used for multifarious purposes like harvesting and transporting of seasonal fruits and vegetables, fishing and fencing of newly planted trees.
Dr Redwanur Rahman, professor of Institute of Environmental Sciences of Rajshahi University, said more than 10,000 people are involved in bamboo-crafts making. Most of them are women and ethnic minority ones.

Bamboo crafts are their main sources of income in the region. He mentioned that around 15,000 people are directly and completely dependent on bamboo-crafts trading for their livelihood.

Dr Rahman said the people in the famous mango producing Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainawabganj districts are engaged in the work as the item, used for safe packing of fruits, in the wake of high demand during the mango and litchi harvesting season.

The manufacturers pass busy days making bamboo baskets, locally called jhuri or tukri, as the item is widely used for safe packing of mangoes and litchis to send those to different areas of the country including capital Dhaka from this area.

Trader Ziaul Haque of Darusha village under Paba upazila said he uses bamboo baskets for safe packing of mangoes that are sent to different districts.

Many people like it as the quality and taste of mangoes remain unaffected during transportation of bamboo baskets. He uses over 85 baskets daily during the mango season.

The trade serves as an additional income source for many poor and lower middle class rural people.

Sahar Ali of Nandangachhi village in Charghat upazila said he can make two big sized jhuris with bamboo splits in a day and each sells for TK 250.
He engaged in the work for over two months of the mango season and earned around TK 25,000.

Anwar Hossain of the neighbouring Halidagachhi village said he makes small baskets and fishing crafts with bamboo splits round the year and sells those at TK 65 to 80 each. He earns over TK eight to nine thousand a month.

More than 200 people of the villages, mostly farm labourers, are engaged in this work when they are free after harvesting paddy, they said.

Jobayer Hassan of Baneswar village, a wholesaler, said he buys the baskets from the local weavers and supplies it to different markets in Rajshahi, Bagha, Charghat, Kansat and Nawhata as the item has high demand, especially during the mango and litchi season.

Bamboo containers for carrying vermicelli, which is locally known as shemai, have become popular in the region during the last 10 to 15 years.

“During the month of Ramadan, we had an order for TK 60,000 to supply shemai- carriers to the nearby district towns and other parts of the division,” says one craftsman, Golam Mostofa from Godagari.

Indeed, students of various schools get involved during the peak season in helping their parents to fill the many orders from shemai makers.

Masudur Rahman, president of Rajshahi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said around 45 per cent of mango traders use bamboo baskets for packing mangoes.

Mango and litchi are the most important agricultural products in the area that have a long tradition of producing around 150 varieties of the popular summer fruit.

A large number of people are engaged in different jobs, including nursing and harvesting of mangoes, manufacturing bamboo baskets and packing, during the mango, litchi and tomato seasons every year.

Chamber leader Rahman, however, said home-based and eco-friendly cottage industry is now on the declining trend amid massive invasion of the plastic household and commercial items posing a serious threat to the living and livelihood condition of many marginalized populations.

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