Bhubaneswar: Priyadarsini Das, a homemaker from Bhubaneswar has become a role model for green innovation and green skill development. She has been on a mission to create bamboo-based sustainable sources of employment, enterprise and income generation in rural Odisha. Along with bamboo she also uses terracotta, Odisha handloom fabric and other local eco-friendly raw materials to create her range of jewellery and accessories.
I love bamboo as a cultural and eco-friendly grass. Bamboo has been with us ever since we started our civilization. Just imagine, when a baby is born, in the early days, people used a bamboo spoon like stick to give the first taste of food, normally honey. And when we die, the body is carried on a bamboo-bed made of six pieces of bamboo. And between our birth and death bamboo has got multiple uses throughout our life.
Bamboo is a climate resilient and environment-friendly plant. It does not require watering, pesticides or any chemical fertilizers. Bamboo is a unique resource. Odisha has got almost 10 different varieties of bamboo, most of it are suitable for making bamboo-jewellery, bamboo-home décor and even furniture.
Keeping the growing market for eco-friendly segment in mind, I started exploring local resources and did lot of experiments at home. My kitchen was converted into a workshop. I used to do lot of experiments for bamboo-treatment using neem, karanj, turmeric, cow dung, castor oil, and other locally naturally occurring materials. Similarly, I also use turmeric, mehendi, onion peel, marigold, tea, coffee, teak leaf, pomegranate as natural dyes for making bamboo beads.
The dependency of these young women on forest has also reduced, cutting of trees from forest can also be reduced as they have started earning from bamboo-jewellery. My objective is multifaceted. I do not want people from Odisha, particularly young girls to migrate as forced labour to different cities and states in search of a menial job. When the world is talking about climate change, we need to focus more on green skills and green enterprises based on local sustainable and renewable resources.
Bamboo as a plant has got tremendous potential to create an economy around it. It is also called as the “Green Gold”. So I switched to bamboo using this concept of Green Gold to make bamboo-based jewellery as I saw the market for eco-friendly jewellery, fashion and accessories are ever increasing both in the domestic and international market as the environmental consciousness of people are rising very fast. Besides, when my focus is to skill and enable rural and tribal women for a better source of income, I see bamboo-jewellery as zero-investment venture.
My recent training programme for 25 young tribal Kondh girls at Bada Chandili village of Rayagada district is a testimony to this. With the help of SPARSH Social Foundation and JK Papers under the leadership of Prof. Prafulla Dhal, I could impart training to these young girls using local bamboo. Now these girls have set examples, getting support from multi agencies both from the Govt. and corporates like ITDA, DRDA, ORMAS, District Skill Centre, Van Dhan Scheme, JK Papers Ltd, etc. Her next training programme is scheduled in the Kalahandi district in January 2022.
I intend to diversify my product base from bamboo-jewellery to bamboo-based lifestyle accessory, home décor and utility products so that we can create a bamboo-based sustainable source of livelihood for rural Odisha. We have lot of local eco-friendly resources available. So as also, we have many traditional skills that we have continued for generations. I want to reorganize those resources, traditional knowledge and skills to create employment and income generation activities in rural Odisha.
As a housewife, I never thought of earning money, nor, I intend to become an entrepreneur. I donot have any organization of my own, but many organisations are interested to work with me. That is how I engage different NGOs for the process of formalizing a training programme. It capacitates them, so that they can continue with the sector, even when I am not associated. I am so far going as an individual, without any organization of my own and helping people, particularly rural women of Odisha in acquiring this new green skill for income generation.
What I believe is we have lot of local green resources available to explore for income generation while keeping in mind the environment. By showing a way out, skilling and connecting them to the market can instill lot of confidence among the rural women and girls to become self-sufficient and self-dependent.
For my initiative my friends call me as “Green Queen of Odisha”. But what, I see is thousands of Green Queens in Odisha, who are waiting to be recognized and promoted. The pandemic was a boon for me as I could spend much time in experimenting with my product at home. Now, many interested young girls are learning the craft from me. They sometimes come to my residence to learn and know more about the art during my experiments.