Thursday, December 10, 2009

We've been so busy coping with the problems of putting malkha production in place that we haven't been paying attention to the quantity of fabric now being produced.. and suddenly realized that it's gone up to more than double! Very exciting and gratifying, but of course it also means more marketing.. At the exhibitions and Bazars customers ask us where it is available, but we don't have retail outlets, and in any case would not be able to afford the costs of urban retail at our present margins. It would be against the principles of malkha to have high mark-ups, so what do we do? Invent low-cost delivery channels. We already supply a few customers by mail - we put photographs on the web, they choose & pay through electronic transfer, and we deliver by post or transport.

We also need to scale up our indigo dyeing since there is a waiting list for deep indigo malkha. Its not the dyeing that holds things up but the transport to and from the vat. The indigo dyers are the only remaining family of traditional indigo dyers in Andhra, and they have put up vats for Dastkar Andhra and for Charkha in Karnataka. This picture, one of several documenting the installation of the Charkha vat taken by Pankaj Sekhsaria, shows an indigo pot with fermented indigo dyebath in its newly plastered bed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The people of rural India are skilled, intelligent and capable of producing excellent products for all aspects of a good life. Today, their access to the natural materials around them is more and more restricted. It began in colonial times with the appropriation by the State of forests, and continues today through appropriation of land and water and poisoning of the air by corporate interests supported by the State. Corporate interests see rural people as buyers of their toothpaste, biscuits, shampoos, soap and cloth... and of course now also of electrical appliances and petrol-driven vehicles. But surely toothpaste and soap does not need to be made in huge factories? Soapnut trees produce shampoo and piloo and neem trees produce toothbrushes which don't need toothpaste. Biscuits which kill childrens' appetites have replaced the nutritious snacks Indian children used to eat of puffed rice jaggery and chana.

'Development' should take as its premise the valuable repository of skills, capabilities and resources of the Indian countryside and the particular character of our varied and diverse society. Its foolish to discard ecological production practices in which we lead the world, in favour of so-called 'modern' production that is energy-intensive and polluting. That has been the guiding principle of the malkha process.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tribal Health Initiative, which provides health services for adivasis around Sittilingi in Tamil Nadu has encouraged them to grow organic cotton. Weavers' Wheel buys the ginned cotton from them and delivers it to the Kranti Chellapa Nulu Sangam, an independent malkha centre. They turn it into cloth, which is then stitched into garments designed by Altra Qualita of Italy, for the Italian market, at Gandhi Rural Research Centre also in Tamil Nadu. This is happening for the second year, and we hope that eventually both Sittilingi and GRRC will set up their own malkha units to cut out all the intermediate transport.

The clothes can be seen in the Altra Qualita catalogue, and the new range is in production.