Creating sustainable livelihoods in Assam

In the northeastern state Assam lies the district of Barpeta, where a small road wide enough for just one vehicle winds its way through lush greenery. There, on a 0.3 hectare piece of land, Women on Wings’ partner Tamul produces biodegradable tableware made from areca nut leaves. Set up in 2010 by Arindam Dasgupta, Tamul makes use of the region’s abundant natural resources, the areca nut palms, which turn out to be a wonderful alternative for plastics.

Local resources
Although there are multiple companies in Kerala and Karnataka making tableware from areca nut leaves, Arindam Dasgupta was the first to do so in India’s northeast. Arindam is an example of a new generation of young entrepreneurs who are choosing to set up their fledgling businesses in Assam and Manipur. Says Arindam: “We decided to use dried leaf sheaths of areca nut palm trees to make our tableware, but there is so much work being done with bamboo and other local resources as well. Over the years, we have seen a growing interest in the northeast, both from government and private initiatives.”

Follow dream and ignore no-sayers
When Arindam started his entrepreneurial journey of making biodegradable disposable dinnerware from widely available waste material, it was completely unheard of. Many scorned off at his idea. But he ignored the doubters and followed his dream to start a green enterprise and generate rural livelihoods. Today 3,000 local rural women and youth are producing 10,000 to 20,000 units of biodegradable disposable dinnerware per day. Tamul aims to increase its sales and production so as to increase the number of jobs for rural women and youth to 20,000 by 2025.

Women on Wings and Tamul partnership
Women on Wings and Tamul Plates Marketing Private Limited (Tamul), a Dhriiti enterprise, are partnering since May 2015. Their joint effort is to grow the social enterprise so as to create more jobs for rural women and youth. Since then, Tamul has six folded the number of jobs in the entire production process of high-quality, all-natural disposable plates and bowls made from areca nut palm leaves.

Picture by Surajit Sharma: Arindam Dasgupta between dried areca nut palm leaf sheaths
Source: Forbes India