Bamboo work in India is generally a caste based occupation. In Kerala, mainly members of the Paraya (Sambhava) caste and the Indigenous People carried out bamboo work. Bamboo artisanship remained a seasonal subsidiary activity for earning supplementary income when other jobs were not available. Conversion of this ailing traditional handicraft mode of production to a manufacturing one involved both social and economic challenges. The mind set of the traditional bamboo workers was one among them-their reluctance and suspicion of any modernising attempt was taken as true. These understandings led Uravu to venture on developing bamboo craft beyond caste barriers and make it applicable to all class of people.
The Thrikkaipetta village in Wayanad district is now known as the Heritage Village of Bamboo, the only one of its kind in the state of Kerala. The village could now boast of a heritage built around bamboo, the green gold. In the homesteads in the village, small farmers cultivate several species of bamboo and reap substantial secondary income. There are a couple of innovative bamboo houses, bamboo bridges and even a bamboo bus shelter in the village. There is a demonstrative bamboo grove and bamboo cottages built in it that receive tourists. In one corner of the village there is community centre built entirely of bamboo where the villagers now hold their community meetings. This routing of bamboo in the psyche and economy of the village and the recovery of a sustainable mode of living and production is one main feather that we count in our cap.
The 22 year old journey of Uravu has had a lasting impact across these relms.
- Improved bamboo species availability in and across Wayanad district through promotion of bamboo cultivation in non-forest areas. Reduced forest dependency for bamboos.
- Developed around 650 different designs and products in bamboo and has promoted them as alternatives for plastic and wood.
- Promoted the application of bamboo in soil and water conservation.
- Evolved a model to promote “green building” using bamboo and other natural materials.
- Promoted community-led eco-tourism model in Thrikkaipetta village in tune with the Responsible Tourism initiatives of the Department of Tourism of Kerala.
- Evolved micro enterprises wherein women from different caste, class and community groups work together.
- Improved the social status of bamboo artisans by removing caste-based perceptions on the occupation.
- Establishing enterprises has led to empowerment of women, especially those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes background.
- Has helped to mainstream the bamboo based economic activities and establish it as a sustainable mode of livelihood.
- Organized viable women’s SHGs/Micro Enterprises/Cooperative Societies to provide livelihood sustenance to over 150 Below Poverty Line families.
- Raised the income levels of bamboo artisans from around Rs. 30 per day (in 1990s) to a range between Rs. 250 – Rs. 1500 per day.
- Ensured forward and backward linkages for the production units by establishing the Common Facilities Centre and tie-ups with various marketing agencies.
- Built business development linkages at local, regional and national levels.