Saturday, February 28, 2009

Katlamara Chalo: Seedlings of Wealth in Action

“Katlamara Chalo”: A call for design and political action using the “Seedlings of Wealth” strategy for rural development in India.

Prof M P Ranjan

Image 01: A collage of images from the field workshop in May 2005 at Katlamara in Tripura State. A cultivated field of Kanakais bamboo at Katlamara, one of over two hundred such fields in the area. Nomita Debbarma with the DDPJoint and Nomita with Bani Urang at the drill machine set up during training sessions in summer of 2005. Samir and Ranjit the master trainers who worked with the design team in the field.

We first visited Katlamara in 1986 while on a project for the Government of Tripura and on that visit Gajanan Upadhayay and I found that systematic plantation could indeed provide high quality material for new applications of great value. We collected a few poles of “Kanakais” – Bambusa affinis – and brought these back to NID where they stayed dormant for several years but they also excited all of us and stimulated students to explore concepts with the use of this strong and straight rod shaped material. This provided grounds for our further strategies with bamboo and in my Bali paper of 1995 I had proposed for the first time my evolving conception of the farm to industry model for rural development using bamboo as a material driver which I later elaborated as part of the UNDP National vision report called "From the Land to The People: Bamboo as a Sustainable Human Development Resource for India". The six stage model for development proposed then was accepted by the UNDP in 1999 and the major initiative of bamboo promotion was started in India with UN funding being channeled through the Office of the DC(Handicrafts). You can read more about these interventions from my website at these links below:
1. Katlamara Chalo! Lesson in Rural Development
2. Bamboo Initiatives at NID
3. All bamboo joinery strategy

Image 02: Seedlings of Wealth model that was proposed in 1995 at the Bali Conference was implemented at Katlamara and the book about the field work and design strategies are now available between the folds of this cover, in a 64 page book titled “Katlamara Chalo: A Design for Development Strategy” (see link below or download 46.5 mb pdf file here).

In this book we have shared the process of how the farm to market strategy was developed through the various stages and how these concepts provided us with the background and conviction that the sustainable use of bamboo could bring economic sustenance to the local village farmers as well as to local bamboo craftsmen and entrepreneurs who depend on their craft as a source of their livelihood. The various prototypes that were developed as well as the strategies adopted by the design team are described along with numerous illustrations of the examples and the work in progress as a documentation report. Between 2001 January and June of 2004 we had the additional task of building a new Institute at Agartala called the “Bamboo & Cane Development Institute” (BCDI, Agartala) where we innovated a curriculum structure that helped train 160 craftsmen in the five batches that were conducted using our new curriculum, all involving NID faculty and research teams as trainers and catalysts in this education experiment. You can read more about the BCDI experiment at these links below:
1. BCDI, Agartala: A new Curriculum for Rural Transformation – Links to papers
2. Achievements of the BCDI, Agartala – Link

Image 03: Sample pages from the “Katlamara Chalo” book – illustrated pages that introduce the strategy as well as show the products and the story so far. Since this project in 2005 we have extended the range of products as well as conducted additional training for craftsmen from adjacent village clusters as part of the Tripura Bamboo Mission initiatives.

Design at the strategic level is not well understood in India or for that matter in many other parts of the world and in most cases almost all of the development success is attributed to the good use of science and technology and of management and planning skills while contributions from design are all but ignored. This is also reflected in the scale and frequency with which science and technology efforts and research are funded by our governments and in India the science and technology sector draws several thousand times more funding for development initiatives and the case for the use design is only considered if one of us, faculty from the design Institutes, happens to be present at some critical government or planning board meeting and we speak out in support of using design as a development resource.

The furniture development using the Katlamara bamboo for the rural development strategy is just one leg of a multi-pronged, multi-location and multi-year design and development effort that we have been pursuing at the NID Centre for Bamboo Initiatives over the years. We are pursuing this to show an even larger story that design at the strategic level (as we understand it at NID) can be a great and powerful force that can transform India if it is used in the 230 sectors in which it is needed but unfortunately which is not yet understood when compared to the manner in which with science and technology and management is understood in India. Many industrialists and government officials in control of development funding still think that design is a cosmetic addition to technology but this is far from the truth although the design media (in India and across the world) still seem to focus on fashion and aesthetics aspects of design and this I call "page 3 design" and I wish to promote the strategic design initiatives in India across all the sectors of our economy.

You can see Katlamara explorations as well as the range of furniture developed in 2005 at this link below:
1. Katlamara furniture workshop 2005 – Links and pictures
2. Download “Katlamara Chalo” book as a 64 page pdf file 46.5 mb

Image 04: A collection of products developed as a follow-up to the Katlamara Chalo Workshop. The Dismantling and stackable tables, benches and storage racks are based on the component stackable configuration developed by Sandesh R using the Katlamara Bamboo Joint using the DDP strategy.

This is an ongoing engagement and after the project in 2005 we have had the occasion to revisit the project location as well as collaborate with a number of partners in furthering our objectives of providing development interventions using design strategies of product diversfication and matching these to local capabilities as well as aspirations. In recent times we have a major project with the Tripura Bamboo Mission where we helped develop a new collection of products that could sustain local markets and these were introduced to local craftsmen in an effort to seed local entrepreneurship based on local demand. This “local to local” strategy saw the design team focus on one product category called the “Alna” a local favorite, a clothes rack, which is found in every home in the region, but is rarely made in bamboo. I have reported about this collection in a recent post which can be seen at this link here.
1. Tripura Bamboo Mission workshop at Bangalore – Link
2. Bamfest show 2006 – Sandesh R and M P Ranjan collection – Link and pictures
3. Bamboo Initiatives products catalogue – Links and pictures

Download related papers, reports and books from here:

1. Ecology & Design: Lessons from the Bamboo Culture, Oita, 1991 – (202 kb pdf file)
2. Green Design & Bamboo Handicrafts: A scenario for action in the Asian Region, Bali, 1995 – (pdf 217 kb)
3. From the Land to the People: Bamboo as a Sustainable Human Development Resource, New Delhi, 1999 – (pdf 1.5 mb)
4. Rethinking Bamboo in 2000 AD (text file), Haikou, Hinan, 2000 – (90 kb pdf file)
5. Rethinking Bamboo in 2000 AD (visual presentation), Haikou , Hainan, 2000 – (8.7 mb pdf file)
6. BCDI: Feasibility Report, New Delhi, 2001 – (371 kb pdf file)
7. Achievements of NID-BCDI, Ahmedabad, 2004 – (21 kb pdf file)
8. Bamboo Initiatives Catalogue: Design Strategies from NID-BCDI, Ahmedabad, 2004 – (16.6 mb pdf file)
9. Traditional Wisdom: Bamboo & Cane Crafts of Northeastern India, New Delhi, 2004 – (34.7 mb pdf file)
10. Katlamara Chalo: A Design for Development Strategy – Design as a driver for the Indian Rural Economy, Ahmedabad, 2007 – (46.3 mb pdf file)
11. NID Bamboo History: A Slide Presentation – 1969 to 2009 – (22.4 mb pdf file)
12. UNDP Lawn Exhibition, New Delhi – February 2001 – (540 kb pdf file)

Prof M P Ranjan


  1. Excellent! Such blogs really are the need of the hour. It shocks me to see how much of money is thrown away on 'imported' furniture, especially in cities like Mumbai. Many times it is because there just isnt a readily available option, unfortunately.

  2. sir, After seeing this wonderful blog we are sad toknow how much money we wasted on imported furniture and woods..Bamboo is being such a wonderful plant material has not opened the eyes of many politicians of this country...I am happy to say that i am going to plant one hectare of my own lands in Sivakasi..i even ordered seedlings from our dept of Agriculture.
    Renewable Energy promoter
    i wish to expand this wonderful wealth on Bamboo


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