Bamboo and You
Uravu and the Ecoshop offered a moving and informative Saturday afternoon of fascinating information about the bamboo plant and the solutions it offers to global warming, environmental degradation, and economic uplift of poor communities. Uravu, an NGO located in the Wayanad (North Kerala), aims to empower marginalized and economically disadvantaged social groups. In particular, they work with traditional artisans, women and indigenous people to teach them how to become economically independent through crafts production, primarily using the eco-friendly and fast growing bamboo plant.
Surendranath, president of Uravu, was in Cochin for the Bamboo Festival and took time from his busy schedule to meet with interested people at Amritapuri. He explained that the organization had originated with a group of friends who were political and social activists on the far Left. They left that mode and decided to do something directly themselves to help people. Thirteen years ago they founded Uravu, which means “spring”. In a unique leadership model, the members rotate in all the positions of authority.
Surendranath told us that they chose to work with bamboo because:
• It conserves forests through timber substitution.
• Bamboo grows more rapidly than trees and starts to yield within three or four years of planting.
• Bamboo plantation establishment requires minimal capital investment and builds upon the inherent plant cultivation skills of local farmers and foresters.
• Bamboo can be harvested annually and non-destructively.
• Bamboo functions as one of the most efficient carbon sinks and so helps mitigate global warming.
• Bamboo is an alternative to non-biodegradable and high energy-embodied materials such as plastics and metals.
• Bamboo rejuvenates degraded lands and provides protection against soil erosion.
• All parts of the bamboo plant can be used in rural livelihoods and industry – shoots for food, leaves for fodder and branches for making over a thousand traditional products as well as a host of new generation industrial products.
He described how women can be empowered through earning their own money for the family and learning to manage their own home business. Handicapped people also make crafts for Uravu to market and can earn money even when bedridden. Craftspeople are taught a skill, supplied with the raw material, and the finished products are marketed. Micro-enterprises include bamboo and coconut shell craft, edible bamboo products like shoots, pickles and bamboo rice and dried flowers.
After the inspiring presentation, crafts were displayed and many rushed to pick up bamboo refillable pens, jewelry, candle sticks, bags, rain sticks and cell phone covers for themselves or as gifts for friends. Surendranath had to return to Cochin to close out their booth the next day at the Bamboo Festival. He thanked us for our interest and support, bade us farewell and packed up. Unlike other executives, he took public transport, carrying his battered laptop and carry bag over his shoulder. Despite the cloudy rainy weather, somehow we felt as if the sun had come out. Good news is hard to find these days, but here was a real success story and a win-win project for everyone. For more information about bamboo and Uravu, visit the Ecoshop and www.uravu.net.
– Rita, Amrita Learning
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham