HEMP: From Village to Bag, a journey across a country
Hemp grows naturally in the jungles of far western Nepal without pesticides, fertilizers or chemicals of any kind. At the end of its life cycle (4 months), villagers gather the hemp knowing that it will regenerate. Wasting nothing, seeds are used for cooking oil while the stems are kept for their fiber.
Collected stems are placed in a mud hole with water for several weeks in order to soften the material. When ready, the bark is separated from the stem.
3. Teeth tearing
Once soft, villagers use theirteeth to tear apart the barkfibers into strips, thinner and thinner until it resembles thread.
Villagers weave the threads using a back-strap loom (A simple loom which has its roots in ancient civilizations comprising two sticks between which the warps are stretched. One stick is attached to a fixed object and the other to the weaver usually by means of a strap around the back. ) Each strip of fabric produced ranges from 6-24 inches wide, depending on the weaver’s reach.
5. Boil & Beat
The fabric is then boiled in ash water for a few hours, after which they beat it with a flat wooden stick, softening the fabric. The villagers receive approximately $5 USD per finished piece of hemp (most Nepalese live on $1 a day, with an average income of less than $200).
Porters journey village to village collecting one to four pieces of hemp from each home. This collection takes several days as villages are distanced days from each other. Once the pieces are collected, they are carried to the nearest bus station in Bajura Bazar or Dune Bajar, an additional day’s walk. These district “head quarters” are 700 miles north west from Kathmandu, an additional 2 day journey by bus.
“(The production of hemp) helps a lot, especially in village to buy their needs like medicine and to pay their children’s school fees. the fabric piece is about 3.5 meters long and earns them $5/piece. They do all this job while villagers have time from their farming. it is their extra income. the thing is, if these hemp cut off and collected by the villagers, it come grows dense next season. it even helps the environment” – Aryal