Women Empowerment: Bamboo Industry in Rural Areas

Women Empowerment: Bamboo Industry in Rural Areas
Bamboo plant

Soma Saha

Regenerative Designer

Share it:

This post is also available in:

This post is also available in: हिन्दी (Hindi) Ελληνικά (Greek)

Show more translationsShow less translations

Rural women are powerful, strong, and purposeful. The challenges they constantly face have hindered their personal development, economic empowerment, and community leadership. Rural women are the invisible mainstay of community resilience and sustainability.

Women make essential contributions to all world regions’ agricultural economies.  It has often been claimed that women produce 60-80% of food in most developing countries. At the same time, most of the people who manage home gardens around the world are women. Sadly, rural women’s active contributions and efforts are not recognized, and their full potential is underutilized. 

Agroforestry offers many benefits to the world’s female farmers. It requires fewer inputs, less expensive, requires less labor, and provides multiple products and services on the farm.

Empowering Women through Bamboo Industry

Empowerment is being extended to rural women artisans who have long been engaged in crafting bamboo products. These women have endured years of disadvantaged living, facing exploitation by traders nationwide. They have received minimal assistance until now, despite their dedication and skills.

Rural women play a significant role in the bamboo industry. They are involved in all aspects of the value chain, from harvesting and processing to weaving and marketing. We work with skilled artisans and intend to teach more women in the clusters, training them with multiple skills to become self-reliant and work with and for us. 

Traditional bamboo-working communities have clearly defined roles in producing utilitarian bamboo products. Men traditionally did harvesting, splitting, and marketing, while more intricate work, such as finishing and coloring the products, was done by women. Men and women work together on processes like sliver-making and interlacing.

Some bamboo and rattan products are especially beneficial for women to produce because they capitalize on women’s natural abilities. Products involving interlacing in textile weaving and the formation of mats and baskets can be used as starting points for designing new products that capitalize on existing skills.

Bamboo textile production leverages women’s traditional skills, such as weaving and sewing, and related techniques, such as dyeing, where women can draw on and apply their knowledge of natural plant dyes and herbs. Bamboo could also be reconstituted as an interlaced mat, ‘yardage’ that can be used on surfaces similar to paper and fabric, and the value added by textile applications such as coloring/dyeing.

  • Harvesting and Processing: Women often harvest bamboo shoots and poles. They also process the bamboo by striping the bark, cutting it to length, and drying it.
  • Weaving: Women are skilled weavers and create a wide variety of bamboo products, such as baskets, mats, hats, and furniture.

The Bamboo industry provides rural women with a source of income and employment. It also helps empower them by giving them control over their economic resources. In addition, the bamboo industry can help to preserve traditional skills and knowledge.

Benefits of Bamboo Plantation

Bamboos are large woody grasses and Perennial Crops. Bamboos are among the handful of plants labeled the most useful. More than 1,500 uses have been recorded of this global crop, making bamboo the undisputed champion of multipurpose managed bamboo forests that have been found to sequester more carbon than wild bamboo biomass crops. Bamboo Farming is an example of a regenerative farming practice that sequesters more carbon than rough nature.  Unlike timber trees, bamboo plants are highly resilient to intense storms, and even if hurricanes destroy them, they can resprout and produce a mature timber crop in three to four years. This is an excellent example of climate change adaptation! 

What are the advantages of involving rural women in the bamboo industry?

Financial independence: The bamboo industry provides rural women with income and employment. This can help to improve their standard of living and reduce poverty. These women can contribute financially to their families by generating income from these skills while maintaining their traditional roles as mothers and housekeepers (Deffrinica, 2019).

Empowerment: The bamboo industry can help empower rural women by giving them control over their economic resources. This can lead to increased self-confidence and decision-making power. Women are often the backbone of the bamboo weaving industry, maintaining and developing skills passed down from previous generations. They make a variety of plaiting with economic value that can be sold in local markets and outside of the village.  Women’s roles in bamboo weaving include cultural preservation as well

Sociability: Bamboo planting has had not only a positively impacted economically but also socially. Cultivating the plant is a skill that strengthens social bonds between women in the village because they frequently get together and share weaving experiences and knowledge.  Woven bamboo products are displayed at cultural events on a larger scale, so it is a process that combines natural beauty with human ingenuity.  Bamboo, as the primary material, is a powerful and adaptable symbol of life. 

What are the challenges that rural women face in the bamboo industry?

Discrimination: Rural women often face discrimination in the workplace. They may be paid less than men for the same work or denied access to training and resources.

Lack of access to markets: Rural women often lack access to markets for bamboo products. This can make it difficult for them to sell their products and earn a fair price.

Lack of training: Rural women often need access to training in bamboo processing and weaving. This can limit their ability to produce high-quality products and compete in the market.

Skill Development

When rural women learn important skills and get support, they start successful businesses. This happens because they have what they need and feel more confident. As they become more confident, they earn more money for their families and become leaders who make positive changes in their communities.

Supporting Women’s Organizations

Women’s organizations can be vital in supporting rural women in the bamboo industry. They can provide training, access to markets, and other forms of support.

A case study from India

Giving rural women the opportunity to participate in managed bamboo farming can empower them and the environment. Shomaa Designs has been working with rural women in India to plant and care for bamboo for over five years. Shomaa Designs has helped women to form bamboo collectives, which provide them with access to training, markets, and other resources. It has been working with rural women to promote the use of Bamboo in handicrafts and other products. It has helped women to develop new skills and to access markets for their products. As a result of these efforts, women have seen their incomes increase by an average of 50%. By supporting these efforts, we can ensure that rural women benefit from the many opportunities bamboo offers.

Cover photo of the article is taken by Soma Saha


We join forces with N.G.O.s, Universities, and other organizations globally to fulfill our common mission on sustainability and human welfare.