GUWAHATI, April 9 - In a first-of-a-kind initiative to
be undertaken in the Manas Landscape, a livelihood fair named �Exhibition and Technical Briefing on Rural Tiny
Industry� was held in four fringe villages of Manas National Park � Kokilabari, Majrabari, Kahitema and Panbari � recently.
While Kokilabari and Majrabari fall under Baksa district, Kahitema and Panbari fall under Chirang district. The livelihood fair is one of the many initiatives being undertaken by the Manas Tiger Conservation Programme (MTCP) that aims at doubling the number of tigers in Manas National Park in the coming decade.
�Manas has a potential to increase its tiger population to double in the next ten years. This encourages us to empower the community with diversified and sustainable livelihoods, and thus reduce the human imprint on the park. We thank our donors, IUCN-KFW and Panthera for supporting us in the initiative�, Dr M Firoz Ahmed, Head, Tiger Research and Conservation Division, Aaranyak, said.
The fair that catered to a crowd of 2,000 visitors brought successful entrepreneurs of rural small-scale industry from many locations in Assam and the rural community of Manas on a common platform of interaction and learning.
While Achinta Kumar Sharma showcased the production of diversified products from the fibre of water hyacinth, Mallika Das, Anima Dutta and their team presented the extraction process of fibre from the pith of banana trunk and also the multitude of products that can be designed with its fibre.
Wahab Ali displayed diversified products designed from bamboo, while Chandan Das of Tambul Plates Marketing Pvt Ltd displayed
how the disposed leaves
of areca nut could be processed to produce disposable plates. Pronoy Kumar Roy and his team from IIT-Guwahati showcased innovative rural technologies aimed at better efficiency of agriculture and allied activities. Candle making and chalk-making were other low-investment trades that were highlighted in the fair.
Local enterprises Maidangshri SHG and Sonali SHG � both based at Majrabari � also participated in the fair. While Maidangshri runs a
food processing unit, Sonali SHG runs a sericulture and weaving unit, both entirely
dependent on locally available resources.
�We have plenty of resources within the village. We have local fruits and an excess of banana and areca nut trees. The industries showcased in this fair are locally feasible and have the potential to grow into a full-fledged trade�, Krishna Basumatary, founder of Maidangshri SHG, said.
Besides receiving direct exposure on locally feasible trades that can be started with the resources available right in the homestead garden at their backyard, visitors of the fair also benefited from a feedback collection session conducted by Aaranyak�s livelihood team at the closure of the fair.
About 980 participants that took part in the feedback session received advice on formation of SHGs, capital and infrastructure management, procurement of raw materials, cost of production, marketing channels, exposure etc.
�Production of disposable plates from areca nut, diversified products from banana fibre, food processing and sericulture and weaving can be practised in our village�, members of Bordaisikha SHG, said.
Bardaisikha SHG based at No. 1 Chourang, another fringe village of Manas NP, is already engaged in the cultivation and marketing of mushroom cultivation � another initiative of MTCP in the landscape.
In his inaugural speech addressing the women of the community, DD Bodo, Officer on Special Duty of Manas Tiger Project, said, �Uncountable areca nut leaves and banana plants are lying wasted in your gardens. Let us take example from the visiting entrepreneurs and utilise these wasted products to build successful enterprises in the Manas Landscape.�
Out of the 960 beneficiary households of the MTCP, majority are headed by women.
�Women are the single-most influential factor in bringing reform to society around them. Especially in the Bodo community, women play a major role in the management of the household. When we empower women, we empower entire generations,� Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar, Aaranyak�s Manas Landscape administrator, said.
The MTCP is a joint initiative of the BTC Forest Department, Aaranyak, Panthera, Wildlife Conservation Trust of India and Awely of France. Sponsored by the Integrated Tiger Conservation Program of IUCN, this programme is also working closely with Bhutanese partners in a larger landscape called the Trans-boundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA).