Sangay Chozom weaves bangchung by the warmth of the hearth in her kitchen (first photo). This is what the young mother of two from Salapong village in Phangkhar Gewog, Zhemgang does every single night before she calls it a day and first thing in the morning before daily household chores and the children demand her attention.
With no electricity, she uses solar lantern to ensure there is enough light when making bamboo products that often entails weaving intricate designs
Bamboo craft making has become an important means of livelihood for Sangay and others in her village. Traditionally, they made a living working on farms. Orange was a popular cash crop until citrus greening devastated the crop. Water shortage and human-wildlife conflict aggravated farm distress.
The Royal Government project ‘Sustainable Management and Utilization of Non-wood Forests Products (NWFP) in Multiple Use Area of the Royal Manas National Park' came to their rescue. The USD 46,600 project was implemented from February 2018 to December 2019 with support from UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme. It helped the locals form the Salapong Non-wood Forest Products Group and Pongchula Pemacholing Tshardzo Tshogpa. 48 households are members of the two groups.
With technical support from Royal Manas National Park, the communities are engaged in sustainable utilization and management of non-wood forest resources. More than a dozen women and nine men from Salapong and 25 others from Pongchula have undergone training on sustainable harvest of cane and bamboos, and the art of bamboo weaving. The training was provided by bamboo artisans from Bjokha, a gewog in Zhemgang known for bamboo crafts.
Though cane and bamboo grow in abundance in Salapong and Pongchula, the art of bamboo weaving was non-existent in both villages prior to the start of the project. So, the two communities had to learn the skill from scratch, but all their handwork was worth it.
The skill has helped the remote communities to earn income, leading to improved lives, while at the same time enabling them to contribute to the preservation of the age-old craft of cane and bamboo weaving.
“As of November 2019, I have woven 10 bangchungs and 40 dapas worth USD 415 since I acquired the skill just a few months ago,” Sangay said