Jamdani, Naturally
Down To Earth|January 16, 2019
Jamdani, Naturally

How the women of Burdwan and Nadia districts in West Bengal weave magic, turning raw cotton into niche and `climate-friendly' Jamdani

Moushumi Basu

A COUPLE OF years ago 30-year-old Lokkhimoni Das, from Bagila village of West Bengal’s Burdwan district, was a content homemaker. While her husband toiled in their 1-1.5 bighe (0.12-0.16 hectare) agricultural plot, she leisurely caught fish from community ponds, chased domestic cattle, and did some weaving on the family loom. But climate change has reshaped the lives of the people of Burdwan and Nadia districts. “I am able to sustain my family with my traditional knowledge of weaving,” says Das.

Ponds have silted and shrunk in size, causing native fish to disappear. “Rains have become erratic—they get delayed, are insufficient or in excess. Agriculture is also getting uncertain. So my husband has to scout to distant states for work,” she says. Other farmers have resorted to chemical-intensive farming of high-yielding paddy. This is ruining the biodiversity of agricultural fields and ponds that provided food to cattle.

Like Das, about 60 women from at least a dozen neighbouring villages have started weaving “climate-friendly” cotton to earn their living. “The cotton they weave is short stapled, which can flourish only with natural fertilisers and pesticides,” says Rubi Rakshit, co-founder of non-profit M G Gram Udyog Seva Sansthan (MGGSS).

The non-profit mentors the 60 women to make eco-friendly fabric. Their work needs no electricity, and very little natural resources. Even the raw cotton they use is grown, processed and dyed naturally. In their own small way, they contribute to mitigate the impact of climate change, and leave no or minimum carbon footprints.

Making of the yarn

MGGSS began its own story in 2010 at Kolkata by collaborating with different organisations across the country to hand-hold women weavers.

MGGSS, which functions under the brand name of Sutrakara, purchases 200 kilogrammes of raw yarn every month from Gram Seva Mandal at Wardha in Maharashtra. The yarn comes from the cotton grown naturally in Akola district of Maharashtra. Here, marginalised farmers work with Chetna Organic, a non-profit engaged in ecological farming in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh apart from Maharashtra.

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January 16, 2019