Sowing the seed
The idea of Beeja was visualised 7 years ago as a part of the initiative taken by UCMA(now Project Beeja) design studio to support the development of a self-sustained community which is well versed in environmental awareness.
Phase 1 - Sprouting of the shoots
Phase 1 was a funded project under the Small Grants Programme(SGP), CEE, UNDP in collaboration with Crafts Council of Uttar Pradesh. The initial work on the project was driven with the idea of developing a self-sustained cottage industry based on Bamboo and Agave.
Since both these plant species can grow in any region, both were used traditionally for local usage. Two regions from different geographies and socio-economic character were identified - one in hills and other in plains to ensure the replicability of the project.
The SGP initiative helped Beeja with an opportunity to establish first ties of ownership in the community. As a part of the project, Beeja introduced training programs towards establishing sustainable livelihood and land development. One of the key lessons learnt from the initiative was the need for a strong institutional framework within the community combined with a sense of ownership over the design and production processes.
Phase 2 - Growing of the tree
Phase 2 began with revival of the project and Beeja Trust was formed as a new incarnation. This has been a completely self-supported and self funded exercise. The clusters were identified based on the existing traditional craft knowledge and expertise in the region which was gradually dying out. Under Beeja, clusters have been identified in the Pilakhua region of Ghaziabad district based on skills currently owned and practiced by each individual either as a traditional practice or for commercial activity. The effort of exploiting the local fiber species of Rambans, along with the local crafts of block printing and carving, entwined with the charm of Bamboo, wood and paper has been carried out for over seven years now.
The production processes and continuous community mobilization has led to a demand from the community itself for establishment of an institution owned, governed groups which are managed by these artisans and supported with managerial and design support by professionals.
Beeja has a brand value and has a presence in market as a brand. We are now working towards sustained marketing systems for the products and services. Awareness generation about our products, the design stories for each product development and the beeja initiative among the community, partners and consumers has been the a slow and steady process. With time we have been able to successfully mobilize the community. The artisans have been oriented with training that is conducted at a regular basis.
This has encouraged and fostered the creation and development of the Beeja trust. The crafts and techniques currently taken under Beeja include-
Block carving & Wood carving
The project is divided into four phases –
1. Conception and community mobilization
2. Research, appropriate design development & training
3. Marketing& employment generation
Spreading of the roots!
Beeja was registered as a Trust on 23/3/2010 under the Indian Trusts Act, 1908. The registration of Beeja trust was the culmination of 6 years of community mobilization and producer group creation undertaken as Project Beeja. Beeja Project received strategic and design support from UCMA (now Project Beeja) design studio, a proprietorship of Meghna Ajit.
Continued core activity areas addressed by Project Beeja are-
a) Setting up of a community centre – Training, demonstration and production unit
b) Revitalizing the Handloom and Bamboo unit in the region through training and establishment of appropriately equipped production workshop
c) Skill training in groups on innovations in design towards facilitating an enhanced market potential through appropriately finished goods
d) Entrepreneurial training of each of group heads
e) Establishment of a Beeja marketing team for enhanced business development
f) Creation of knowledge centres and resident programs for research and development
g) Establishment of Institutional partnerships with Government units that support cluster based development for sustainable livelihood
The income generated through Beeja activities benefits individuals as a part of charitable activities and also form a compensation for the services rendered.
Under the services, the medical care and addressing the basic education at the primary level are the areas that Beeja is involved.