The harvest has been good. Quality, exceptional. The dream? To be known as the best producers in the world of this variety.
We write a lot about fragile ecosystems around the world, including the Periyar Tiger Reserve, almost literally on our doorstep. We’ve also written about the Kerala Forestry Department’s goals to facilitate, provide and sometimes create alternatives to forest-based means of income for the Reserve’s tribal and local communities. The Community Development Committees (CDCs) and Economic Development Committees (EDCs) run by the tribal communities are an integral part of achieving these goals.
The EDCs and Raxa Collective Cardamom County have come a long way from the initial planning meetings on social entrepreneurship goals. After a successful start with the newspaper bag workshop, the attendees went through various levels of organization (and reorganization), the groups contracting and expanding until finally stabilizing into the newspaper bag unit that include a president, coordinator and a secretary elected from among themselves.
Initially there were almost 25 ladies from 9 EDCs participating in the unit, but after the fine tuning process, it reduced to a total of 10 participants (3 ladies from Vanasree auditorium and the rest from Mannakkudy). The good news is that the existing 10 ladies who form the Mannakkudy EDC are experts bag makers and are very interested to be a part of the Raxa Collective Cardamom County newspaper bags initiative.
EDC facilitator Shyamala helped the ladies to withstand the initial development process as well as assist in the organization of their schedules. The Vanasree auditorium ladies are responsible for the cloud walk trek as well as day patrolling in the nearby forest area. It was very difficult for them to organize their time because would guide the treks only if guests arrived. This was also a challenge financially, as they would get paid only when guests arrived as well. Now the Forest Department has hired the ladies as daily wage staff who needs to work for only 18 days per month. They are still enthusiastic and expert bag makers, and in a recent conversation assured me that that they can provide as many bags as we order. They currently make almost 200 bags per day.
The Mannakkudy EDC is comprised of 3 ladies working full time on the newspaper bags project. They makes around 60 first quality bags per day. The ladies from both Vanasree and Mannakkudy are very much optimistic about the ongoing success of the initiative. They are providing these first quality bags to nearby shops and Raxa Collective Cardamom County as well as already sending close to 2,000 Methiyadi bags and Biriyani Bags to supply clients PaperTrail in Cochin. They are confident that they will be able to keep up with the growing demand. I am also sure that more and more ladies will be attracted into this venture after observing group’s successful economic gain.
About the author: I started work recently, responsible for managing human resources at Cardamom County. It has been my dream to become a manager in the hotel field since I was young, and I am beginning to fulfill that dream. I completed my Masters in Hospitality Management(MMH) from Marian College Kuttikkanam, a near by hill station.My family home is at a place called Vandiperiyar, 12 km away from where I work, and I can recommend anyone to visit this part of Kerala.