Hemp as a lever for economic development in Nepal
A bit of history
The textile use of hemp in Nepal is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. In the regions of Bajura and Bajhang, its cultivation persists, although it's in decline and hardly ever used for clothing. As a matter of fact, for the locals, modern clothing from China or India is more attractive, and often cheaper. The current use of hemp is practically reduced to the manufacture of articles for tourists.
At Bhangara, we want to change this. Our aim: to encourage the textile industry to preserve the know-how, protect the way of life of rural communities and ensure their livelihood with a renewable resource. By giving visibility of this artisanal heritage to the rest of the world, the Nepalese will be able to become the main actors of their social and economic development due to sustainable production.
Our aim: to encourage the textile hemp industry
to preserve the know-how, protect the way of life of rural communities and ensure their livelihood with a renewable resource.
Our workshops, our strength
Restore the connection between consumer and producer
“#Whomademyclothes?” cried Fashion Revolution in 2013. Following the Rana Plaza disaster, a symbol of neglect in the mass production garment factories, awareness of working conditions in Southeast Asian countries was born. Under social pressure, some multinationals had to examine their production chains. Finally.
Transparency is at the centre of our concerns. We cannot be proud of our products without being proud of the working conditions of those who made them.
Having experienced and witnessed the working conditions of the "conventional" Nepalese garment industry, we deliberately sought out partners who operate according to fair trade criteria. In the end, we found them. Today, we consider ourselves extremely lucky to have such exemplary partners with us. Bhangara could no longer exist without them.
A real partnership in the creation of our hemp textiles
To design our models, we work and exchange ideas together for a few weeks in the workshop. The creative process starts with a paper draft from which we launch a prototype, this allows us to see the product "in real life". Sometimes, the dimensions or the fabrics used are not optimal and a correction is necessary.
Another difficulty: the design is finally too complicated or technically impossible to sew. If that happens, a third correction is required. Usually, after the second sample, we are completely satisfied and move on to the production of about 30 or 50 pieces.
Nevertheless, to get to this point, there will be many tests concerning the weaving and the dyes. For certain weaving patterns, changes will have to be made. Similarly, reaching the desired color tone will require several tests, as well as "control washes" of samples to check for colour transfer.
Finally, once the series is finished, we examine the bags one by one for potential defects. Even if our seamstresses take a close look at their work, mistakes are human. Rather than refusing the pieces that are not 99% acceptable but are perfectly useful products, we prefer to suggest them to you at a reduced price.
For all this, one or more members of the team travel to Nepal two to four times a year. Yes, these trips do have a carbon footprint. But face-to-face visits are indispensable not only for the creation, but also for understanding the production issues and problems encountered by our craftsmen. Finally, these trips also serve to impregnate BHANGARA as much as possible with the Nepalese culture.
We are not perfect, but we are happy to create the best we can.
A community collective founded by women
We were very curious about their organisation, which is entirely composed of women and has the Fair Trade label, so we came to meet them. We were amazed by the story they told us.
In the beginning, it was just a small workshop founded by women, all very young but having already suffered from unbearable working conditions. Originally from the Terai region, they had come to the capital in the hope of a better future... followed by disappointment.
Since the foundation of their workshop in 2008, they welcome and train women in a socially precarious situation, living alone, widowed, separated or fleeing from a forced marriage, to give them the means to achieve independence. When they join the foundation, they spend six months working on different trades: weaving, dyeing, cutting, making and embroidering bags and textile accessories.
At the end of their training, they choose a speciality and work in it for four years. After these four years, they have acquired complete skill in the trade and are able to become self-employed. At that point, they will leave the organization to make room for other women.
In 12 years, no less than 280 women have gone through the organisation and learned a trade. We can only admire the courage of these women and the enormous work they do, despite their youth, in their quest for emancipation and empowerment.
Conditions and training:
- Working hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- One lunch and one tea break
- 6 months of apprenticeship in the various fields of sewing
- 4-year contract in the chosen field
- Large shared kitchen and party room
- Small communal vegetable garden
- Recovery of biogas from toilets for use in their building
We can only admire the courage of these women
and the enormous work they do, despite their youth, in their quest for emancipation and empowerment.
A small family textile workshop
We had toured the city's sewing workshops, and we had no doubt that the finished product they attained was second to none. We arrived in their workshop with a dozen or so designs, and many expectations. It may seem cliché, but from the first meeting, we trusted them. Since then, the more our collaboration has progressed, the more we have been impressed by their serene state of mind, optimism and humility.
This small factory was founded by a couple from Nepal. When we met them, they had three seamstresses aged between 40 and 60 with approximately 10 to 20 years experience. Having worked together for years, their team cohesion was felt at every moment.
However, their enormous skill in tailoring intricate and sought-after hemp items was unfortunately not enough. Actually, their prices did not allow them to compete with professional exporters, even though, the last mentioned, use low quality or mixed hemp and the working conditions in their workshops are questionable.
Thus, from 10 employees in 2008, they have been reduced to 3. Our goal is to increase our production with them so that their workshop recovers its former prosperity, where all positions were filled.
- Working hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with 1 hour lunch break
- 2 breaks of 15 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon
- Meal and tea provided by the company
- Housing available to employees in need
Our goal is to develop our production with them
so that their workshop recovers its former prosperity, where all positions were occupied.
Transparency: characteristics common to both workshops
- Safe and healthy, in accordance with the conditions laid down by national laws and Fair Trade
- Well-defined areas (kitchen, manufacturing, toilets)
- A solid building against the risk of earthquakes, well lit and in perfect waterproof conditions, allowing it to withstand the wet monsoon season.
- Between 30% and twice the average wage in the sector.
- Monthly or piecework pay (more experienced people prefer the second option).
- Overtime pay. If they have to work on Saturdays, extra hours are paid 50% overtime over the basic salary.
- Provides support for a household
- Comply with national and religious festivities.