Wayanad district (Kerala):
Says Uravu President, C Surendharan, "Bamboo has thousands and thousands of applications. We have forgotten this. Bamboo can empower masses, it can really go a long way even in the up-market area."
Local women are at the forefront of this effort. Many of them are widows of farmers who committed suicide after incurring huge debts.
Uravu has helped them form 25 self help groups, who operate micro-enterprise units making bamboo products for the tourism industry. Pens, flower vases, candle stands and even flowers - you name the product and these women are making it.
Says Uravu Treasurer, K Babu Raj, "Our aim is to get a small income for each family here through bamboo products. Majority of our products are aimed at tourism industry and with my experience in the last eight years, I can say that this marriage between tourism and bamboo industry is all set to reap rich profits."
This is one piece of wood that's all set to change the destiny of an entire district. But for that to happen the state machinery needs to realise the huge potential of bamboo. Otherwise this will be yet another initiative waiting to get nipped in the bud.
Says Surendhran, "Availability of flexible finances is a problem. Basically, the bureaucratic way of thinking is that work should start immediately after training units are over. The needs of the sector are not understood well at the Government level."
Wayanad may still be a virgin tourist destination, but with concepts like home-stay and bamboo villages catching on, tourism is all set to boom in the coming years.
The potential for bamboo products is huge, and this is what the impoverished locals here are now hoping to tap.