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Odisha’s tribal women use leaves to make eco-friendly plates and bowls

Tribal women in Odisha use Sal and Siali leaves to make bowls and plates which are eco-friendly

The leaves of Sal and Siali lying on the ground may seem waste but they can be turned into eco-friendly and biodegradable products like plates and bowls. Doing this are Odisha’s tribal women in Sundargarh.

With the demand for these plates and bowls going up, now more than 2,700 women in the region are employed in making them and this has made them economically independent and confident.

The initiative of creating plates and bowls is part of Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram under Integrated Tribal Development Agency. VDVK provides tribal men and women new avenues of livelihood using their traditional knowledge and skills.

Starting from scratch the women of the VDVK unit gather Sal and Siali leaves from the forests close by and dry them in the open under the sun. This makes the leaves ready for stitching which is done by hand before using machines to do it again. By putting them into the press they are flatten and then plates and bowls are made.

Apart from providing requisite training and support in their endeavour, ITDA also ensures that these women get fair price for their products in the market. By linking them to the market, ITDA is aiming to change this cottage trade into a small and micro enterprise.

Talking about this, Ramkrishna Gond, Project Administrator in ITDA said in the past these tribal women created these plates by hand and sold them locally which did not fetch them a reasonable price. With VDVK stepping in, members of women self-help groups were roped in to teach them how to make these products with the help of machines.

The use of advanced machines now enables production of 1,500 plates and bowls by each VDVK unit.

At present there are 18 VDVK units which work under the supervision of ITDA Sundargarh and of these nine are engaged in making the plates and bowls. The required stitching machine, press and weighing machine for these units and training has been provided by ITDA Sundargarh.

By showcasing their wares in local markets, fairs and festivals, a sizable demand has been generated for these eco-friendly products. People have been evincing keen interest in them, informed Pinky Meher, a VDVK unit member.