1. Agriculture World

Inspiring Revival Stories of Natural Fibres from Bengal

Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Dr. Lakshmi Unnithan
Natural Fibers
Water Hyacinth

Earth Craft is a social enterprise that started its journey in the year 2010 in Kolkata. Initially they started with eco-friendly bags and packs with the aim to reduce the use of plastic. They manufactured paper bags out of newspaper, craft paper and handmade paper. Later, they worked to promote traditional craft from rural Bengal like Patachitra, Jute, Shital-pati, Madur, Sabai, Coconut shell and Bamboo products.

Bikram Mitra, owner of Earth Craft, Kolkata says they have done design intervention on the above products and it is their constant endeavour to create a market for them. For the last few years, Earth Craft has also taken an initiative to promote Organic Farming. They are organising small Farmers’ Markets at different places in Kolkata where organic produce of small farmers is sold.

More feats of Earth Craft

In this work, they have been supported by DRCSC (Development Research Service and Communication Centre). They have received a lot of knowledge and support from Dr Anupam Paul. This work is a continuous process says Bikram Mitra and right now they are also focused on supporting the seed-savers of West Bengal, trying to create awareness about indigenous seeds and the importance of its conservation. They are at present working on a Water Hyacinth Project for which Earth Craft has received unconditional support from Bangla Natok.com. As the recycling process is 95% handmade the carbon footprint is almost zero.

Earth Craft visited a village in North 24 Parganas in the year 2011 where water hyacinth was a huge problem, mainly for the fisherman community. Then they collaborated with a local NGO Swanirvar and took the initiative of recycling water hyacinth and making paper out of it. From this paper they designed handicrafts. They also got support from NABARD under RIF (Rural Innovation Fund) and involved a women SHG (Self Help Group) for a livelihood project. They also collaborated with SAFE (South Asian Forum for Environment) and organised some workshops with local people at East Kolkata Wetlands.

About Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth is a water weed. Eichhornia crassipes have broad, thick, glossy, ovate leaves,bulbous stalks and feathery freely hanging roots. They have beautiful attractive lilac flowers and the seeds are produced in large quantities which are viable upto thirty years and they are vigorous growers.

Hyacinth has the potential to be transformed into a source of income for the poor communities. E.crassipes is almost 60 per cent cellulose, a complex carbohydrate. To turn the stems into usable fibres they must undergo a series of treatments, including boiling to soften them and reduce their moisture content. The Stems which are atleast 50 cm long is split lengthwise. The soft tissue surrounding the stem is removed by rubbing after one day of sun drying. They are not dried beyond three days and then they are treated and sorted. Fibre may be either twisted or braided into ropes of different thickness depending on the crafts to be made.

More products from Earth Craft

Earth Craft have designed products like photo frame, slip box, carry bag, pen stand, writing pad, folder, tea coaster and more. Earth Craft sells these products in different exhibitions at Kolkata and the suburbs. They have also executed orders of NGO’s, corporate and Government bodies like Fisheries Dept.

Last year, Earth Craft executed a large scale order of Nadia Zila Parishad and Municipality for their annual diaries and they also took initiative to train 30 women and created a Self Help Group. The possibilities are immense as the raw material is available in many places in West Bengal. This year they are planning to start two projects and create more interesting and diverse products.

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