forests account for 16.40 percent of the total wooded area in J&K. In summers, the shedding of dry needles forms a thick mat on the ground which not only affects the growth of regeneration, but due to the slow rate of decomposition, the needles sometimes easily catch fire, causing unaccountable damage to the environment.
To tackle this problem, around 500 women from J&K, organised into 28 self-help groups, are using these pine needles as raw material for the creation of eco-friendly handicraft products. They blend creativity to craft and meet the expectations of handicraft-loving customers with these products. J&K Forest department is actively involved in this initiative to train and handhold the SHGs in their activities. Because of the continuous efforts of these SHGs, each of them has generated an income of around 2.5 lakh rupees within six months of their inception.
Government is making efforts to train more women with this skill. “From rural areas, many women are coming forward to learn this skill and disperse the idea of livelihood generation from chir pine needles. We have around 22 women who are trained enough to impart these skills to other villagers and are emerging as master trainers,” said Senior Forest department official.
He added that they are planning to expand the initiative to all districts of Jammu &Kashmir where there is adequate production of pine needles. “Also, various handicraft products from the needles include roti box, tray with wooden base, dining mats, purses, baskets, hats, etc. These products are distinct from other handicraft items as no chemical is involved in the entire process. Also, they are quite durable and last from 15-20 years,” said the official.
Almost no one was doing anything constructive about the pine needles. “We wanted to elevate this material and make something that had a potential for mass appeal like daily products generating livelihood at the same time. All the qualities of being eco-friendly, and biodegradable made it an excellent choice for making handicraft items,” he said.