Bamboo, a fast growing, wide spread, renewable, versatile, low-cost and environment enhancing resource, hitherto known as a ‘Poor man’s timber’, has of late gained importance as a resource capable of providing ecological security and fostering in economic benefits to the people. With the development of technology supported by scientific research and intervention, the utility of bamboo has increased manifold with products ranging from medicine, food, structural and construction materials and numerous other applications. The diversity and utility of bamboo coupled with its ecological benefits have indeed made it the ‘green’ material of the future making it a viable medium to bring economic growth for the people, and now broadly referred to as the ‘Green Gold’.
Nagaland Bamboo Development Agency and its impact on the State:
Bamboo is an important resource in the socio-economic-ecological-climatic- functional context for Nagaland and it is indeed a pride of the State. With a bold objective to harness the potential of bamboo and its benefits, the State announced its Bamboo Policy on 15th March 2004 and with it the Nagaland Bamboo Development Agency (NBDA) was established to undertake the programmes and activities of bamboo with the objective to foster in ecological security and economic growth through development and utilization of the bamboo resources. This is the only agency of its kind in the country.
The development of bamboo in Nagaland is taken up from two perspectives in a mission mode, namely, Resource development and Enterprise development. Augmenting existing resources through scientifically managed plantations and regeneration are areas where the agency is focusing on to develop bamboo resources. Technology sourcing and dissemination, capacity building and skill up gradation, infrastructural developments and marketing initiatives are some areas of focus for enterprise development. The implementation of the development activities are envisaged to be taken up in a mission mode through the active support of the Central and the State Government.
Empowering entrepreneurs, artisans, craftsmen, farmers and green innovators:
Since inception, the Agency has been on a progressive mode with all its initiatives under the flagship of the National Bamboo Mission and National Mission on Bamboo Applications. Faced with innumerable challenges during the initial phase, the Agency has now become a household name and embraced by many as a viable avenue for building lives. The NBDA has indeed achieved a number of commendable milestones within its short period of existence. In the process, it has successfully roped in many entrepreneurs on board in all its major production initiatives including bamboo handicrafts and furniture, bamboo shoot, bamboo charcoal, bamboo mat, bamboo incense sticks, bamboo blinds, etc. Through the length and breadth of the State, the Agency has been reaching out to local artisans, farmers and various Self-Help Groups through assistance, training and skill-up gradation. Another major initiative of the NBDA is its marketing strategy which looks at collaborating with private marketing houses and entrepreneurs and which has started to show visible progress. The Agency has also been creating awareness on the ecological benefits of bamboo through various campaigns involving NGOs, students and green innovators.
Under the resource development initiatives, the Agency has identified suitable bamboo species and undertaken regenerative and captive bamboo plantation along with improvement of existing stocks, covering all the districts in the State. Through these initiatives, hundreds of bamboo farmers from all the eleven districts of the State have directly benefitted. This also involves the adoption of the Village Bamboo Development Committee, wherein the representatives from the concerned villages are empowered to monitor the plantation activities, thereby ensuring the active participation of the communities in the process of bamboo development.
The Agency’s promotion of bamboo as the green construction material has evoked positive responses from different quarters, subsequent upon which bamboo for construction has been revitalized. Application of new and high-end bamboo construction techniques which are structurally sound, durable and cost effective and also aesthetically appealing is being promoted by the Agency. This has paved way for generation of more income among bamboo workers. The Agency has so far generated much interest among the youth resulting in indirect employment in this segment which involves all kinds of bamboo construction, interior decors, including houses, restaurants, halls, pavilions, gazebos, bridges, etc.
Harnessing the traditionally acquired skills of the craftsmen and intervening with technology in the development of bamboo furniture by the Agency have so far evoked much interest and marketing potential. Since the use of bamboo guarantees the exclusivity of each item, every piece of furniture is an art in itself. The Agency has been successful in promoting affordable and modern furniture with finer quality and designs by means of providing training, physical assistance and infrastructure. At present, around 21 furniture units around the State are involved daily in producing such products. Along with these, the Agency has also assisted other groups comprising of specially-abled persons to establish a fully operational furniture production unit in the Resource Centre.
This segment enfolds a very enterprising group of bamboo craftsmen and artisans with inherent skill, technique and traditional craftsmanship.. Looking at this vast potential, the Agency has been successful in revitalizing and promoting local bamboo craft and art with improved technology and designs, coupled with value addition initiatives and industrialized mode of production. With the assistance of the Agency, there are now about 120 persons directly employed under this segment, and even more getting trained on a daily basis at the Nagaland Bamboo Resource Centre.
BAMBOO CHARCOAL BRIQUETTES:
Bamboo charcoal has of late gained much popularity for its multi favorable characteristics including lesser waste, more heat, longer lasting and lesser waste have attributed to its user friendliness. Bamboo charcoal production units through the use of various types of charcoal kilns (metallic, TIFAC, Chinese, Japanese technology) have been initiated in the State by the Agency. The development of bamboo charcoal briquettes by the Agency has led to the establishment of a fully mechanized briquetting unit in Dimapur with a daily total production capacity of atleast 20 tons. This bamboo charcoal production initiative has ushered in new ways to utilize the immense waste generated from the bamboo facility centres and following the occurrences of bamboo flowering. The bamboo charcoal briquette is already becoming a popular household item in making hassle-free barbecues and rotis, besides heating up a room during the chilly winters.
Under promotion of community enterprise, the Agency through its vision of realizing the potentials of bamboo and utilizing the same for economic development on a sustainable basis led to the promotion of weaved bamboo mats in the State. Following which the Anaki bamboo cluster was started consisting of 6 villages under Tuli area of Mokokchung district. With an initial production of 76 mats a month, the latest figures show a marked increase touching 4000 mats per month, earning a gross income of Rs. 4.00 lakhs per month for the cluster villages.
The taste-buds enlivening bamboo shoot has come a long way in the dietary habits of the Nagas, which is seen as a preferred food ingredient in most South East Asian countries as well. The demand of bamboo shoot products is increasing worldwide. Bamboo shoot with a Protein content of 1.49 to 4.04g in 100g of fresh shoots, rank highest among vegetables in protein content. The development and promotion of this edible attribute of bamboo with the involvement of experts and Self Help Groups by the Agency is seen as a successful venture through the intensified production bamboo shoot pickle. At present four Self Help Groups are actively involved in bamboo shoot pickle processing alone. More groups and individuals are also involved though out the State in production and harvesting of fresh bamboo shoots. The professional marketing strategy devised by the Agency is also forthcoming and has paved avenues for entrepreneurs in this field.
BAMBOO INCENSE STICKS:
The demand for incense sticks is huge in the National market owing to the cultural practices of the people. Looking at this potential, the Agency is planning to develop incense sticks production clusters in the State. These clusters will pave way for the possibility of utilizing huge quantity of raw bamboo by way of converting them into a readily marketable product. Although this segment is yet to take off effectively, the availability of the technology, resources and labour in the State can be seen as a replicable innovative practice.
OTHER BAMBOO PRODUCTS:
The Agency has also developed a fully mechanized bamboo Venetian blinds production unit, along other units for the production of bamboo baskets, bags and accessories. These bamboo utility products have found innumerable uses, both domestic and commercial, creating more avenues for artisans, craftsmen and entrepreneurs.
Besides many others, bamboo fabric is already creating ripples in the fashion industry around the world that has attracted many enthusiasts to experiment and create exceptionally competitive lines of design and products. This is one area that has immense potential for livelihood generation in the skilled sector.
The number of interested people approaching the Agency for information, showing their eagerness to get involved and become stake holders in this growing bamboo industry, is testimony to the success of the various replicable innovative practices adopted and promoted by the Agency. And with further assistance from the Government and active involvement from the artisans and entrepreneurs, the bamboo industry as a whole has a bright future in the State.