GreenWatch Dhaka with Rafiqul Islam, UNB Staff Writer
Dhaka, Sept 29 – A community-based ‘Yarn Bank’ has been helping ethnic women of Bangladesh’s hill district of Bandarban improve their livelihood as loans from the bank help the invest more and produce handloom in larger quantities.Establishment of the Yarn Bank is part of the government efforts to encourage local communities to earn more from the sale
of attractive handloom products which are in great demand among tourists.
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’ve no agricultural works in the hills. Earnings from handlooms help us face the lean period when we’ve no work,” he said.
But, they often faced difficulty in collecting yarn to make handlooms products for lack of money. This adversely used to negatively affect their income and livelihood in the past.
“Now we don’t face this problem as we’ve 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 ‘Yarn Bank’ last year, and produced handlooms with yarn purchased using the amount of money.
Zingminsiam Bawm, another ethnic weaver, said she produced many handloom products taking loan from the bank last year and sold those at better prices.
“I participated in a fair last year to present our products and got a huge response from local and international buyers,” she said.
Like Dosim and Zingminsiam, some 60 ethnic women of Bethel Para are now producing handlooms by taking loans from Yarn Bank. The Yard Bank has been set up 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 three Yarn Bank branches in Ramu Upazila of Bandarban.
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.
Himalica Project’s agriculture officer Aung Shew Marma said ethnic women take loans and deposit their handloom goods, value equivalent to the loans they take, to the banks for regenerating bank’s fund.
Kya Thui Ching Talukdar, a business development officer of the project, said three Yarn Bank branches have been set up in Bandarban alongside forming bank committees.
He said training has been imparted to committee members to customise products as per market demand with basic skills of crafting, measurement, and techniques.
Parmeeda.com, an online store, has been established for building business relations with Bethel Para handicrafts community, he said.
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.