Ranibala Devi – Bamboo business weaves a brighter future for Manipuri Lady Artisans

Back in 2011, the future didn’t look too bright for Lourembam Ranibala Devi. In her mid-30’s, the former handloom weaver wasn’t making enough money to put food on the table for her family. So she took a month-long training course in Bamboo weaving crafts conducted by the Bamboo Mission Manipur, a division of Forest Department in Manipur government.

The mother of two kids, who studied till class 10 at Shakhi Devi High School in Uripok, started a women self-help group Khonghampat Handicraft along with her husband Henthoingamba at Naoremthong Laishram Leikai, Imphal west, to generate livelihood from cane and bamboo craft products.

Today, her initiative has brought together other 10 skilled women artisans of her locality and a decent monthly income of about 10,000 Indian rupees for each of them, with which they can manage their family comfortably to some extent.

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“We collect Bamboo stalks mostly from Khonghampat, Kakching, Hiyangthang and Leimaram areas at Rs 120-250 a piece and fresh cane at Rs 1300 per kilo from Tamenglong district,” told Ranibala. Bamboo varieties like Marubob, Uyee Unan, Utang and Khakwa are mainly used for making various decorative craft items.

Bamboo trays and other decorative gift products by Khonghampat. (Photo: Manipur Times) Handicraft

Bamboo trays and decorative gift products by Khonghampat Handicraft. (Photo: Manipur Times)

Her women self-help artisans make decorative bamboo products including sofa set, table, lamp, flower basket, base, tray, pen stand, bag and kouna gift accessories. A bamboo sofa set can easily fetch a handsome amount of about Rs 20,000 in the market, where the demand for it is pretty high, she added.

She believes that Bamboo furniture could replace wooden furniture to make our world a lot more environmentally friendlier, as cutting down of trees is considered to be one of the contributing factors to global climate change. Some of her eco-friendly products are also made from scratch, or from recycled Bamboo materials.

A collection of Bamboo decorative furniture and baskets, as well as wooden carvings. (Photo: Manipur Times)

A collection of Bamboo decorative furniture, lamp, and baskets, as well as wooden carvings by Khonghampat Handicraft on display at Manipur Sangai Festival 2015.  (Photo: Manipur Times)

“Economically backward state like Manipur will see the spark of development in its economy only when people adopt work culture with dignity and sincerely. Prosperity in life will never come to us if we remain sitting idle,” she said.

Her artistry group has also participated in several Handicraft trade fairs and exhibitions, even outside their state of Manipur, in cities such as Delhi, Nagpur and Guwahati over the past years.

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