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Bamboo has played an important part in the lives of the people of Assam, and has been an integral part of the cultural, social and economic traditions of the State. It is a renewable and versatile resource, and an important component of the wealth of Assam. It grows in the natural forests, and is cultivated in homesteads, groves and on private plantations. It is utilized in many ways, for housing, fencing, functional articles, agricultural implements, basketry, and even fuel and food. People possess traditional skills of working with the material, and knowledge of the cultivation and management of Bamboo. Rattan is also an important natural material for the state of Assam. Building on traditional patterns of usage, it has evolved to become the basis for many artisans and craft persons working on cane furniture and craft products for the market.

Bamboo is an essential component of forest ecosystem. In the hilly and mountainous areas as well as riverbanks elsewhere it protects the slopes from erosion as an effective soil binder. Bamboo forests are also home to many endangered wild life including a large number of birds. For the Wild Elephants, endangered Hoolock Gibbons, and some other fauna, it forms a major part of their diet. In Assam, even today, by far the most important and visible uses of bamboo are at the household level, in every day lives of people. Bamboo is used extensively for house construction (walls, flooring, roofing, panels and partitions), fencing, agricultural and fishing implements, storage, basketry, household articles and other domestic applications and for economic activities such as cocoon rearing trays in sericulture. Some households also produce for the market - often as independent products for localized markets, making storage and carrying baskets, fishing traps agricultural implements, seed trays, mats and fencing material. Sometimes they function as subcontractors, on a piece rate basis. These activities are not normally carried out as a primary vocation, but supplement household income, especially in the lean season for agricultural activities.

picture by fantafabulous
bamboo seed

PHOTO: BAMBOO SEED : In semi-urban areas, another development has taken place, in the form of the emergence of individual entrepreneurs, and clusters of cane and bamboo activity. Such groups of craftsperson and micro-entrepreneurs manufacture an array of products for adjacent and even distant markets. The product range builds on its functional origins, and incorporates decorative and non-traditional products­ranging from largely low value bamboo basketry to expensive cane furniture. The overwhelming industrial use is however still for pulp and paper. The paper mills in the State have a capacity of 8,00,000 tonnes per annum, met largely from Assam, but to a lesser extent from the neighbouring States. Much of the bamboo utilized in these spheres comes from the forests through a system of contracts, leases and departmental operations.

picture by fantafabulous

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