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Chenchus turn a new leaf

K. Venkateshwarlu


NGO introduces tribal women to weaving of plates from ‘madapaku’ leaves available in plenty in the forest




Productive work: Chenchu women weaving leaf plates at Korraprolu in Prakasam district.

KORRAPROLU: After helping her husband in extracting gum and collecting honey and tuber from the forests, Dhamsamu Pothamma of the primitive Chenchu tribe always wondered how to use her spare time for shoring up the meagre family income.

For, relying on minor forest produce was becoming difficult and meant trekking a long distance deep inside the forest. For all the hard work they do, the income was just not enough to feed a family of four. Options were not many for the Chenchu women, especially for the newly married ones, who avoid going into the forest.

Just when they lost hope, volunteers of the Banjara Development Society introduced them to weaving of plates from ‘madapaku’ leaves available in plenty in the forest. A month into the hand-crafted plates, Chenchu women have turned a new leaf. Each of them is able to weave 100 leaf plates a day that fetched them an additional income of Rs. 30. When they are fully trained, they could weave up to 300 and earn Rs. 90. Two groups of Chenchu women, 14 in one and 22 in another, are undergoing training in two camps here. “Initially, it was a bit difficult, but now it looks easy and in a month’s time we should be able to weave 300,” said a confident Pothamma. “It is good for us as we need not depend on gum, honey and tubers alone,” added Uthaluri Manthamma.

Value addition

It is not the first time that the Chenchu women are exposed to weaving leaf plates. Integrated Tribal Development Agency and Forest and other Government departments tried to train them, but it was a half-hearted approach. “Now we are doing it in highly focussed manner, providing them rations and stipend. We plan to scale up and introduce it in about 30 habitations of Chenchus. We want to install machines for value addition like making cups and bowls,” said M. Sambasiva Rao of the Society.

The potential is high as they are environment-friendly and women belonging to other communities in nearby Dornala have earned and saved so much that it could take care of their marriage expenditure.

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