Transrural Trust began working with the Kulung Rai hill tribe people in 2004 and following successful pilot projects in three villages, is embarking on a more ambitious plan from 2009 to 2013. The poverty-stricken producer communities have told us that their greatest hope is to extract more value from their natural nettle resource. Although many of the products they make for local markets are useful, they bring in very little cash to pay for essentials like food, healthcare and education for their children. The focus of the project is therefore on the production of high value, lightweight items that can be marketed to people with greater buying power, in order to increase the potential for a higher income to be generated by the producers.
In 2007 the Himalaya Natural Fibre Foundation was established with the support of Transrural Trust, to represent the interests of the producer groups and its committee includes leaders from their communities.
How are they made?
The Rai men extract the fibres from the nettle stems and leave them to dry for four days.
The Rai women boil the fibres in water and ash for two hours, before washing them in a nearby river. They then mix the fibres with limestone and leave them to dry for several days. The fibres are then painstakingly separated by hand before being spun into thread.
The thread is knitted into scarves and shawls. On average it takes a Rai woman four days to knit a scarf and six days to knit a shawl.