Many women at Pachkupi village in Bogura have become self-reliant by making baskets, caps, tablemats and toys with fibres of the palmyra palm tree
Once Bristy Bibi learnt making handicraft items from fibres of the palmyra palm tree, she was able to contribute to family expenses with her earnings.
Fifteen years ago, however, her family struggled to make ends meet as her husband Shamsuddoha was the lone wage earner. He recently bought some jewellery for Bristy.
"We are solvent now and have been leading a happy life. I bought a gold jewellery for Tk11,000 and a gas stove for Tk5,000 from my earnings," Bristy said proudly.
Like Bristy, many other women at Pachkupi village in Kahaloo upazila, Bogura have become self-reliant by making baskets, different types of caps, tablemats and toys with fibres of the palmyra palm tree.
They are paid upon completion of orders they get from different companies. Each artisan earns around Tk6,000 per month, which is Tk2,000 shy of the minimum wage of ready-made garment workers in Bangladesh.
The fibres are extracted from the leaf of palmyra trees. At first, raw palm fibre is soaked in water for 30-40 days and then the fine fibre is extracted from it for weaving handicraft.
While visiting the village, The Business Standard saw women busy making different handicraft items, after completing their household chores.
Sabina Khatun, 33, wife of expatriate worker Abu Taleb, has been supporting their family for the last 25 years. She bears her daughter's educational expenses by making palmyra handicrafts.
"Now I can fulfil all my wishes with my income," said Sabina, who earns Tk200 per day.
Salma Khatun, Sajeda Bibi, Nilufa Begum, Lovely Begum and Minara Begum are among other artisans also engaged in this making palmyra handicraft from their childhoods.
"Earlier, we did not get fair prices for our products. We used to get Tk30-Tk50, depending on the types of products," said Salma Khatun.
"Our pays increased after the export of our produced items began," she added.
About 200 families at Pachkupi village – which is surrounded by palm trees – are engaged in producing these environment-friendly handicrafts.
Non-government organisation Palli Unnayan Prakalpa first started exporting the handicraft, made by the village women, to Denmark in 2005. Later, their products got another destination, Italy.
Palli Unnayan Prakalpa, which started its journey with a capital of Tk50,000, now exports products amounting to Tk10 lakh annually.
"We export handicraft to different countries, including Denmark, Italy and Japan," said Abu Hasanat Sayeed, chief coordinator of Palli Unnayan Prakalpa. "For being eco-friendly, our items have huge demand in Japan."
The items also have high demand among customers in the Middle East.
Palmyra handicrafts can also enter the markets of Europe and America if ambassadors of those countries assist in this regard, Sayeed said, adding their "handicraft are also shipped to different parts of" Bangladesh.
Masrukun Islam, programme coordinator of Palli Unnayan Prakalpa, said it is necessary to train up women to further improve the standard of the products.
The women also need financial support so that they can expand their activities, he suggested.
"The government should ensure access of our items to the international trade fair so that we can acquire export orders from foreign companies."