Story | 30 May, 2020

Training of women wool workers on non- woven wool craft using innovative women friendly technology.

Household wool-craft industry languishing in Phojal watershed of Himachal Pradesh gets a new lease of life after a training programme on innovative non-woven woolen felt technology conducted by IUCN India. The training programme is a part of project on ‘Coping with Uncertainties : Building Community Resilience and Ecosystem Based Adaptation to Climate Change in the Indian Himalayan Region’ under the National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS) , Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change, Government Of India.

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Photo: @IUCN India

Sheep rearing is an integral part of mountain village economy for supply of meat and fibre. However, in the last four-five decades the demand of local sheep wool has declined as there are not many buyers of coarse wool, and people do not prefer locally spun prickly yarn for apparel. Instead, local weavers have resorted to using readily available viscose and imported merino yarn for weaving apparels and shawls. The weavers are not skilled in non-woven wool craft, thus a large amount of wool is disposed of as waste. Yet, wool sheared from local sheep is most suitable for rugs and floor spreads which are very much in demand in the cold Himalayan landscape as people dine, rest and sleep on floor. Felting wool is easier and time saving option as one does not have to spin and weave; wool can be directly wet felted by a simple procedure and made into a durable and attractive fabric.

Mountain, Community, Himalayas, India       Photo: @IUCN India
IUCN India organized training programmes for 25 women in Neri village, Phojal, Kullu in May 2019 to introduce handcrafted ornamental non-woven woolen fabric (felt) which can be used for cushion covers, curtains, wall hangings and floor coverings, and toys and jewelry. The programme was repeated in the month of February 2020 following a request from the local community and the state government of Himachal Pradesh. The concept of low energy and women friendly processing of non- woven woolen fabric was designed and introduced by Mr. Yogeshwar Kumar, Consultant, Energy and Livelihoods, IUCN and it was implemented by IUCN India team in association with Block Development Office, Naggar and local NGO partner Science For Technology and Development, Mandi  with contributions from designers and expert felt trainers. New tools and technology introduced were:  push-pull rollers for less intensive labour in felting and embedding woolen motifs, portable low cost dies for faster cutting of motifs for ornamentation, wool stacking frames for faster production. The training workshops yielded more than 100 exquisite ornamental felts which could be used as wall hangings, floor spreads and cushion covers. These were highly appreciated by local communities as they found it much easier to make and design felt of their choice with ornamentation.  For continuity of felt production and further upscaling in the valley, the women beneficiary artisans have had been provided with all the tools and equipment and the beneficiaries themselves arranged for local wool.

Realising its potential for using discarded waste wool, the need for training women and men in other parts of the state and creating additional livelihoods, the state government of Himachal Pradesh has brought non-woven woolen craft under its fold of State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM). The beneficiaries of Neri village have been organized in women Self Help Groups (SHGs) and registered under the state government schemes.

Mountain, Community, Himalayas, India       Photo: @IUCN India
These beneficiaries can now be further helped in expanding their business by improving marketing and sales, and providing exhibition space in various parts of the state. The Directorate of Handicraft, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India has registered these newly trained artisans by issuing artisans cards which can help them in exhibiting their products in various parts of the country and availing benefits of government centrally sponsored schemes.