D.Umden Eri Cluster, Meghalaya

The Umden Eri cluster is a traditional cluster which is located in the Ri- Bhoi district of Meghalaya. The cluster is located in a hilly area and has a moderate climate which is suitable for rearing of silk worms. The cluster comprises of 17 villages which are located within a range of 12 kms. The artisans were traditionally skilled in Eri activities but they could not develop it into a commercially sustainable income generating activity. It was primarily a part time activity and though a few households had the knowledge of natural dyeing, the possibilities of natural dyeing were not fully exploited. Realising the scope of Eri activities and natural dyeing the Umden Eri Cluster was taken up for implementation of soft intervention.

Vision for the cluster

The vision for the cluster was “To revive the Eri activities and turn the cluster into a Natural Dying hub.”

Text Box: Umden Eri Cluster Initial challenges

While initiating work in the cluster the following initial challenges had to be overcome:

  1. The cluster artisans were reluctant to accept anything new.
  2. Since a number of government departments had implemented their schemes and their reach    & impact was limited, the artisans were skeptical of new initiatives attempted by government organizations. There was lack of understanding about the benefits that would be achieved through convergence of schemes of different government departments.
  3. Language was also a barrier since majority of the artisans could neither understand English nor Hindi.
  4. There were few master artisans who had commercial orientation & also knowledge of market prospect ofnaturally dyed Eri products but they never shared their knowledge with other artisans.
  5. The artisans had good weaving skills but they were used to weaving only on the floor loom. Using the floor loom is a time consuming process and also resulted in health hazards like back pain etc.

Intervention Plans

Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterThe intervention in the cluster started by first focusing on shifting the artisans from floor loom to fly shuttle loom & then simultaneously focusing on convergence with different departmental schemes, product development, providing market linkages, breaking the chain of middleman, and attempting to unite all artisans to work together as a group. In order to gain the confidence and trust of the artisans, a well planned intervention strategy was worked out for the cluster. There are seventeen villages in the cluster and each village had a head man who was respected by all the villagers and his views were easily accepted. Initially personal interface and awareness meetings were organized for all the headmen and once they understood the interventions proposed in their villages it was very easy to get the goodwill of the artisans of the villages. A Network Development Agent (NDA) from the district was appointed to coordinate at the grass root level and create awareness on need for group work and need for change.

Efforts were made right from the beginning to get the support of different related departments of the government. For developing a concerted effort, one core group called Cluster Development Co-Ordination Group (CDCG) was constituted under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner with all the concerned departments like Sericulture, Handloom, DRDA etc. as members of the group. CDCG meetings were organized at regular intervals and through these meetings monitoring the developments in the cluster automatically took place. This model helped work out a common developmental plan for the Umden Eri Cluster through which the artisans could really be benefitted.

Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterWith a view to introduce small technological intervention in the cluster few artisans were taking for an exposure visit to Dimapur Khadi Cluster, Nagaland. The objective was to provide inputs on impact of use of semi automatic spinning machine and introduce them to improved looms such as Jacquard loom, Fly shuttle loom, Laxmi loom etc., which helps in improving productivity. During the visit artisans also got an opportunity to interact with the Nagaland Khadi Cluster artisans and got encouraged a lot by the way these artisans were systematically taking up the eri activities to make a meaningful livelihood out of it.  The outcome resulted in the artisan’s acceptance of improved loom. Back home they shared their experience with the fellow artisans and asked all the artisans to take part actively in all the cluster activities and experiment with spinning machine and fly shuttle loom.

With these initiatives being taken up in the cluster, it became very easy to get other agencies like DIC, KVIC involved in the cluster. District Industries Centre (DIC) & Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and Meghalaya Khadi and Village Industries Board (MKVIB) helped  the cluster artisans by enabling participation in exhibitions and also providing skill development training. District Sericulture Office, District Social Welfare Office also provided support to the artisans through different welfare schemes.

Initiating Social Capacity Building

To motivate the artisans to work on group basis to reap the benefits as well as achieve economies of scale, a number of orientation programmes for the SHGs were held in the cluster with experts from different organizations. A total of 28 SHGs have been formed in the cluster and they were detailed on various aspects of SHG management, the aims and objectives of SHGs, the advantages of financing through SHGs, the need of a proper book keeping as well as other documentation. Now the SHGs are actively participating in various programmes and getting the benefits of working on a group basis.  

Since improving productivity and reducing health hazard was one of the primary focuses, initially a number of awareness meetings and workshops were organized on need and scope of shifting to fly shuttle looms. As the resistance to change reduced a number of skill development programmes were organized for the artisans to create awareness on importance of quality and workshops on need quality maintenance was organized.

Convergence with different department Text Box: Umden Eri Cluster

The adoption of cluster approach and a continuous effort to network with related organizations helped the artisans garner support from other departments also. Assistance obtained either in the form of financial assisstance or subsidies helped them to take up Eri activities on large scale.

Some important convergence that was possible in the cluster are mentioned below.

  • Handloom Work Shed Project: DC Handloom provided 100 work sheds with looms. 64 nos. of artisans received Rs. 9000/- each and another 36 artisans received Rs. 25000/- individually. The work shed consisted of a temporary work shed, fly shuttle loom and improved accessories.
  • Rearing Shed for Eri Culture: The Department of Sericulture provided rearing sheds to a few artisans. That enabled them to undertake the rearing activity systematically. Initially the artisans were using the traditional method and rearing was done in open space and that resulted in a lot of wastage of raw materials. The introduction of rearing sheds helped the artisans to carry out the rearing activity in proper manner and also minimizing the wastage. Presently the rearing activity has been streamlined and the production has also increased. Before they used to produce around 6-8 kgs but now they are producing around 18 kgs per year and earning today an amount of Rs. 30,000/- per year only through rearing. The artisans are self sufficient and earning their livelihood by selling the raw material in two forms.

      i) In the form of Cocoon

      ii) In the form of Yarn.

  • Common Facility Centre (CFC): A CFC for Spinning & Weaving has been constructed in the area under the sponsorship of department of Sericulture and Weaving under BRGF Scheme. The CFC is equipped with warping drum, jacquard fitted looms and other improved equipments. The CFC is presently being used as a common training cum production centre. A provision for hostel facility for the trainee artisans is in the pipeline. Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterThe establishment of the CFC is helping in carrying out the production activities smoothly. For example earlier the artisans were carrying out production activities on their own which often resulted in difference in quality and in the absence of uniformity in maintenance of quality and adherence to technical specifications.. The training centre has provided training to almost 300 artisans since its inception.
  • Credit Linkage: Successful convergence was developed with the SGSY schemes. 8 SHGs got bank loan with a subsidy of Rs. 25,000/ in the financial year 2009-10.  Two SHG’s got bank loan of Rs.2, 28, 000/& one group received Rs.200, 000/ from DRDA with 50% subsidy. Also a total of 14 groups were covered under PMEGP scheme with a subsidy of 35%. Another two groups received financial assistance from the Meghalaya Apex Bank under ICDP scheme amounting to Rs. 60000 each. The credit linkage also resulted in creation of few micro entrepreneurs who are confident of themselves and understand the market demand.
  • Health Insurance Scheme: A total of 168 artisans were covered under the Health insurance Scheme sponsored by DC Handloom.  The scheme not only covers the weaver but also his wife and two children. All the pre-existing diseases as well as new diseases are covered under this scheme. A substantial provision for OPD has also been included. Facilitating health insurance resulted in creation of goodwill and trust amongst the implementing agency and the cluster artisans.

·                  Artisan Card:A total of 140 artisans were provided Artisan Card sponsored by DC Handicraft. Artisan cards increase access to state-funded benefits and help build confidence as they derive a sense of identity.. With the help of artisan card the artisan can also take part in the trade fairs and exhibitions at free of cost.

Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterSkill up Gradation

The artisans from the Umden cluster were only using floor looms which actually did not enable them to go in for mass production. A comparison between fly shuttle loom and floor loom showed that the productivity rises significantly if the artisans go for the fly shuttle loom. Thus efforts were made at generating awareness among the weavers on the benefits of using fly shuttle loom for which earlier they were hesitant. One master trainer on fly shuttle loom was engaged in the cluster for a period of six month.

Fly Shuttle Loom

The trainer began by demonstrating handloom activities in the fly shuttle loom. Artisans were trained up in batches and almost 80 % of the artisans from the cluster were trained up. Majority of them could easily catch up the skill on the fly shuttle loom and started finding it very interesting and convenient to use and realized that it also enhanced their productivity. Later on when a few artisans received the fly shuttle looms from the handloom department, they could easily carry on the activities on those looms and take large orders. Convergence with another scheme, i.e, the Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Programme on Handloom (Jacquard), helped the artisans to learn the new skills on draw-by technique, jacquard machine etc. A total of four (4) ESDPs have been conducted covering 110 artisans.

Natural Dyeing

 Inherited from their forefathers, the activity of natural dyeing in Umden started quite early. Initially there were only four colours which were used for natural dyeing. The colours used were (Red, Black, Yellow and Orange). During the diagnostic study in the Umden Eri Cluster, it came out that this cluster had the potentiality to be turned into the hub of natural dyeing. The artisans however were completely ignorant about the latest market trend at both national and international arena where the demand for eco friendly and natural dyed textiles is rising.

 Although most of the ingredients used for natural dyeing were locally available in the area, but the artisans tried only a few colours.   Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterMoreover, the traditional process of natural dyeing was very time consuming, and a lot of firewood had to be burnt for a small amount of dye and it was not cost effective that did not enable them to take up the activity commercially. Keeping this in view, a skill development programme on advanced natural dyeing was conducted covering 60 artisans in the area was organized and through the programme they learnt techniques like scouring, mordanting and dyeing. During this training an extensive research was carried out by the expert and the artisans on the availability of raw materials and probable colours that were possible. Finally the artisans could learn to make 23 different colours, using natural dyeing techniques.

Jacquard Loom

The skilled hands and the creative mind were always there, the only missing link was the technical guidance to help them explore and improve according to the need of the market. During this programme the artisans were made aware about growing concern worldwide about the systematically dyed yarn and the emerging market of naturally dyed yarn. Efforts were made to locate the sources of dye in their locality and process them.

Market Support

With all the need based cluster interventions, efforts were made to promote the vibrant eri sector of this region. Keeping this in mind, a design development training programme was organized for the artisans. The basic idea of the training programme was to train up the artisans in diversified products. During this training programme they were introduced to making of products like Gents & Ladies Shawl, Design Stole, Cushion Cover, muffler, table mat, runner, durries, neck tie, tea cozy, curtain etc. The artisans slowly got the confidence that with the eri activities they can make a sustainable livelihood. Further, the artisans were also facilitated to participate in various fairs and exhibitions and for most of the artisans this was the first opportunity to participate in exhibitions and trade fairs.

Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterThese exhibitions helped them to get the taste of the market directly. The biggest support came from TRIFED which has been providing the marketing support to the cluster artisans. Through convergence with different departments the cluster could avail benefits through various agencies.

Initiatives towards group working

                To further strengthen the group working among the artisans, “Umden Eri Cluster Development Co-Operative Society” was formed which is serving as a SPV in the cluster. This SPV has also donated the plot of land for the CFC at Diwon village in the cluster. A total of eight (8) looms and ten (10) spinning machine has been installed in the CFC. The society is running the CFC now.

The Present Scenario

It is very good symptom of success that eri activity has become one of the major source of income for every household in the cluster. Now the cluster artisans can depend mainly in Eri activity without depending on the other activities. Previously agriculture was the main source of income and handloom activities were just a part of daily household duties for women members of the family. But now after the intervention and convergence they have understood the benefits of value addition and scope of commercialization. Most of them today  are totally depend upon the handloom activity for their livelihood. They are properly marketing their products not only in the local but also in national market. A good supply chain system has grown up through their own initiative. Artisans are earning an income of Rs 10000/-Rs15000/- per month. A noticeable number of changes have been taken place in the cluster villages. One can see them making bags for all section of people in and around the cluster and it is from this cluster that the major portion of hand bags is supplied to the entire state. The bags have become a symbol of gloryfor Umden Eri Cluster. Visible change can be seen in the standard of living of the artisans as the villagers who were earlier living in houses made of wood and bamboo are today living in concrete house, using television and motorcycles etc.

Factual Data of Three Selected Weavers Who Have Availed Bank Finance Set Up Their Own Production Centers and Experience Success.

Name of the Artisan: Thielina Rympeit.
Address: Vill-Diwon, BPO-Umden, P/O-Nongpoh, Ri-Bhoi District.
Education Qualification: Class-III
Age:   43 Yrs.                                  
Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterMonth of Establishment:  June-2008
1. Operation of loomOperated the floor loomOperates the fly shuttle with Draw by mechanism
2. ProductMain products were Shawl, Curtain etc.Presently producing Shawl, School bag, Curtain, Muflar, Table mat, Natural dye shawl etc.
3. DesignAll were traditional designsPresently traditional cum new and innovative designs.
4. MarketThere was no scope for market. Productions were fully concentrated on self use.Products are marketed to places like Nongpoh, Shillong Handloom Dept. marketing outset at Nangpoh.
5. IncomeIt was approximately Rs. 800/- per month.It is approximately 4,000/- per month.  
6. Employment generationThere was no scope for employment.Presently she  provides employment.
7. TrainingsDid not attend any training.Attended ESDP Training for 3 month conducted by IIE.
8.Future planCould not even think for further production.Now she wants to expand her unit.
Name of the Artisan: Ribis Mallai.
Address: Vill-Diwon, BPO-Umden, P/O-Nongpoh, Ri-Bhoi District.
Education Qualification: Class-VII
Age:  42 Yrs.
Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterMonth of Establishment:  June-2001.
1. Operation of loomOperated the floor loomOperates the fly shuttle with Draw by mechanism
2. ProductMain products were Eri shawl, Bag, Cotton soul, Muflar etc.Presently producing Shawl, Bag, Cotton soul, Muflar etc.
3. DesignAll were traditional designsPresently traditional cum new and innovative designs are using after training. Started concentrating on natural dye.
4. MarketFor self use and order basis for local peopleMarketing her products in Shillong
5. IncomeIt was approximately Rs. 750/- per month that was also from cultivation.It is approximately 6,000/- per month and that is also from weaving.
6. Employment generationThere was no scope for employment.Presently she can provide employment.
7. TrainingsDid not attend any training.Attended ESDP Training for 3 month conducted by IIE.
8.Future planCould not even think for further production.Now she wants to expand her unit with jacquard machines.
Name of the Artisan: Keloris Syiem.
Address: Vill-Diwon, BPO-Umden, P/O-Nongpoh, Ri-Bhoi District.
Education Qualification: Class-VI.
Age:  40Yrs.
Text Box: Umden Eri ClusterMonth of Establishment:  April- 1993.
1. Operation of loomOperated only the plain loomOperates the fly shuttle loom.
2. ProductMain products were Eri shawl, Bag, Muflar etc.Presently producing  Eri Saul, Bag, Muflar etc.
3. DesignAll designs were traditional.Presently traditional cum new and innovative designs are using.
4. MarketEarlier it was only limited to local market..For self use and order basis for local people as well as to Shillong market.
5. IncomeIt was approximately Rs. 2,000/- per month.It is approximately 12,000/- per month and that is also from weaving.
6. Employment generationTher was no scope for employment.Presently she can provide employment.
7. TrainingsDid not attend any training.Attended ESDP Training for 3 month conducted by IIE.
8.Future planCould not even think for further production.Now she wants to expand her unit by using jacquard machines for improve modern designs.

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