The quaint little hamlet of Anegundi located on the northern bank of the Tungabadra River is said to be the site of Kishkindha where Lord Hanuman was born. Walking inside the small lanes brings me to a board that reads ‘Banana Fiber Cottage Industry’. Intrigued I make my way inside and am pleasantly surprised to see the place abuzz with activity. Also, there are only women – all local who are busy working with a brown fiber weaving it deftly to create a range of products. I soon learn that what they are working on is the locally available banana – plantations that you see in abundance in the vicinity. And yes, I was quite surprised that the raw material is banana – yes you read that right.
Banana stems that used to be discarded as waste earlier is used to create the fiber that is finally converted into home accessories and decor products. Interestingly the banana plant is known for being one where each and every part is used. Today this has got the attention of designers and interns from leading design colleges are also seen here trying to learn the craft. Firstly the banana stem and leaves are separated into individual units and are dried for about 20 days in the sun. This is then split vertically to extract the thin fibers that are joined together to make a thread. This thread is then used to weave ethnic and ethical design accessories.
The unit that started with 8 women now supports the livelihoods of several hundred of them. All proceeds from the sales of the product helps to support the women who are able to add a supplementary income stream in their homes. This project was supported by The Ministry of Textiles (DC – HC), GoI between 2003-2005 as well. There are three units here – one that makes ropes, one for domestic crafts and an export unit that has a market linkage partner in Finland.
The banana fibers are weaved into colourful clothing, ornamental boxes, baskets, hats, key chains, mobile pouches, bags, coasters and even jewellery. All dyes used are chemical free too. Nothing is wasted here and that is what makes this initiative sustainable end to end. As for the women who work here it is not just a way to be financially independent but also a sense of community bonding. While the center has space for 500 women, there are many more women that work from their homes getting the raw materials ready. All the profits made are ploughed back into the business to ensure that the women who work here benefit from the same. A must visit on your next trip to Hampi, this place will make you believe in the fact that big things can happen even when you start small.