“It grows wild here, we also cultivate it and reap the fibers from this plant  which we call Rambaans,”  Gopal the local youth of Kotdwar shows us his white swanky sun hat.  Well these are  a fashionable lot with their pristine white hats , I think,  till I get to see the agaves plants and the fibers  extracted from it. Go pal’s agaves fiber hat is a sure winner.

Nestled in the western Himalayas near the pilgrim town Rishikesh is the sleepy town called Kotdwar.  Best way to travel there is to take a taxi ride and enjoy the scenery and the winding roads, which lead to the enchanting town with its green expanse of trees , lianas and shrubs. When the hot summers hit the plains of India it is great to spend a few days in places like Kotdwar and relax amongst the Himalayan greens. Friendly people chatting away over hot cups of tea by the roadside and monkeys greeting you on the streets as you drive from Dehradun, the capital city of Uttaranchal , is a common sight.

Kotdwar does not  have many opportunities for men and women to earn but things are slowly changing. People have learnt to use the biodiversity present in abundance to their advantage. Women co-operatives are many and they are engaged in producing local textiles from wood and fiber indigenous to their region. Nettle grass , which is another wild plant  is  also being used to make stoles and mufflers . The AGAVES fibers are  used to make mats, paper and other parts are used to make shampoos , medicines and beer.  Products are available in the market and also in cities during exhibitions and trade fairs.

As I pick up my shopping in kotdwar  from little kiosks I realize how tourists can play a  valuable part in a sustainable economy of the region by buying locally produced eco friendly goods. We grab at the branded mill made goods in swanky malls and pay a steep price for them when the same can be brought from a local producer. The smile on their faces is a lasting memory of a place you have helped enriched.

Above comments were
sent by Ms. Shoma, Jaipur (shomad@rediffmail.com)

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