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Saccharum spontaneum, Linn. (Kansi), Saccharum munja (Munj or Sarkanda), Typha elephantina (Pateri) etc. are some of the seasonal grasses/leaves that grow wild in the Tarai region of Udhamsingh Nagar district. Much of these grasses grow next to seasonal ponds or larger water sources (such as Sachharum spp.). A field survey was conducted by UBFDB on these seasonal grasses for material assessment, raw material availability and product development. It was found that the availability of the raw material is hence best during and immediately after the monsoons. Kansi and Munj are very similar though Kansi is more widely available in this area. The women artisans are highly skilled in their craft. However the growing bottleneck in this field is the dwindling of the craft resource. The amount of rainfall has a direct bearing on the yield of these resources. These grasses are harvested by rural women from a distance of 4-6 kms from their village and are used by these women for making baskets and mats. Increasingly the distance for resource collection is growing longer and they are now having to resort to buying the resource during the off season, having a direct bearing on production.
Kansi and Seenk/ Urai grasses have been traditionally used for basket-weaving. They are the best grass in absorbing dyes, which are commonly used embellish the baskets with interesting motifs inspired from nature (flowers, seeds, animal figures and trees are commonly used motifs).
Pateri ghaas is used for chatai or mat weaving, which are used to spread on charpais or floor for sitting. San (Jute) is grown locally on small sections of agricultural land where water is sufficiently availability. The presence of this fiber is due to the influence of a small Bengali settlement at Sitarganj. They use jute as a fuel and also for making rope and other household products.
Tools used for weaving the baskets are quite rudimentary such as a thick needle, locally called ‘suja’. Scissors or blades are also used to trimming the edges. Weaving on handlooms, knitting and sewing are also popular techniques.
Thus due to the seasonal nature of the basic raw materials, the nature of employment generated by the craft activity is also seasonal in nature. A market focused enterprise can only be built if the raw material is available easily. There is thus a need to promote cultivation of the grasses used for craft within the vicinity of the clusters. This will be beneficial in reducing the collection time and in ensuring a certain security with respect to annual availability of the resource and in scaling up and sustaining commercial craft operations. Also until now these seasonal grasses enterprises were highly subsidized, with no attempts to make the existing handicraft economically oriented through design interventions. Regular design inputs will go a long way in ensuring the marketability of the handicraft items.