Etikoppaka toy making – Appropriate revival of a dying cottage industry

Reproduced from the BCT annual souvenir 1986

Etikoppaka is a village 9 miles away from Yellamanchili. It is known for a particular type of lacquer-ware product, especially toys. The locally available softwood, Wrightea Tinctoria (Ankudu in Telugu) is cut, seasoned for a month and then worked on lathes. Lac from Madhya Pradesh forests is procured, mixed with different colours and tints and applied to the surfaces of the shaped articles. The colours are permanent and the toys are cheap.

Training Etikoppaka artisans (1981). Visitor Ms Jane Prosser ATI, Washington DC

However the industry was a picture of desolation at the time BCT entered the picture. Since the Forest Department was not supplying the wood, the Ankudu wood was being smuggled. All the artisans, except for a couple of master craftsmen, were in the clutches of four middle men who marketed their products. Whenever the artisan needed money, the middle men would provide a loan at an exorbitant rate of interest, with the result that the artisan was only able to pay back the interest. Until the loan was repaid the artisan was forced to sell the toys only to the middle men. Thus, in reality they were bonded labour. The artisan had to buy wood, lacquer and other inputs from the middle men at a higher rate and sell the products at a lower rate therefore losing both ways. Also, in an effort to make both ends meet, the artisans were neglecting the quality of their work and concentrating on quantity for a quicker turnover.

Etikoppaka – showing the finesse of toy making

What appropriate technology was needed to raise the morale of this long established industry and to bring it successfully in the 1980s? To cut a long story short, BCT directed its attention to the following:

  1. Procuring official supplies of wood
  2. Reviving the dying art through quality control and the introduction of new and modern designs.
  3. Training new blood
  4. Introducing motors and lathes instead of the traditional manual lathes
  5. Tapping new markets

The programme to train new blood made a start in March 1980 with 14 young boys (including 2 handicapped polio victims) receiving training from a professional toymaker from Etikoppaka. The programme was originally aided by EZE and later continued under TRYSEM for a period of six months. Soon after the first batch of training was completed, eight destitute women were trained on a scheme financed by the Department of Women and Child Welfare. Altogether 40 boys and destitute women have been trained in this craft and there are a further 6 boys and girls currently in training at BCTs School for Skills. During the 9 months training programme, trainees receive a stipend from BCT of Rs. 125/- monthly. In addition three men and two women were sent to BCT for a 4 month advanced training course in toy making skills at Bangalore Design Centre.

Variety of Etikoppaka toys

What has been the result of BCT intervention? Some of the trained youngsters have set up their own successful toy making unit in Yellamanchili. More recently, in April 1986, Chandaka Nukanaidu set up his own workshop in his village, Panchadarla. Already, he is able to earn up to Rs. 30 per day. Gradually, BCT has been able to build up a rapport with a number of artisans in Etikoppaka, some of whom have established their own workshop at School for Skills. BCT has introduced motorized lathes into the workshop, thus allowing the artisans working there, to have access to appropriate technological machinery. All the above are able to make use of BCTs support in acquiring raw materials and marketing of goods. BCT now has secured markets with the Victoria Technical Institute, Madras; Lepakshi Handicrafts, Tirumala; Central Cottage Industries Corporation, New Delhi and the Handicrafts Emporium, Madras. BCT is the Vice Chairman of South Indian Producers’ Association, promoted exclusively for marketing the handicrafs.

By the introduction of appropriate inputs and techniques such as motorized lathes, marketing and training programmes, a new life and pride has been brought into the toymaking industry. For BCT however, effective appropriate technology means that the technology should belong to the artisan. The final sage has yet to be reached when BCT can withdraw its intervention, leaving the artisan in direct control of his markets. Unfortunately it looks as though that day is far off.

Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Rural Development

Rural development can be taken as development of opportunities in rural front to let the people live the life of their choice and in the manner they want. In other words, rural development is a means to secure the inputs at the door steps of the villagers at the time they want and in the manner they want. The villagers are intelligent enough and resourceful enough to husband these resources for their own benefit.

The Government spends a lot of money in order to reach these rural folk. But neither the funds nor the benefits reach the needy. Firstly, the system is urban-oriented. Secondly, the needs of the villagers are assessed, if at all, through the local elite. The programmes, per force, are routed through the local elite or through agents or through people with vested interests. There is little to wonder therefore that the benefits do not occur to the people that need the assistance.

Then comes the role of the Government machinery in this rural development programmes. The Government necessarily has to be rule-bound. The Government officers are liable to be transferred and the programmes are target oriented. All these points go against the working on the rural front. There needs to be flexible operations as the situations are different. The villagers take the programmes in a very slow manner and the inputs that are supplied have to be timely. In other words, the Governmental programmes are not geared to the realities of the rural situation. The Non-Governmental Organisations on the other hand are flexible in operation, are innovative, are not rule-bound, and are working in the rural front with the rural people. This is to say that a non-governmental organisation is the most suitable vehicle to reach the people for their own development. Further, the people that work with the villagers should realise, that they are outsiders and need to catalise the villagers into action. There should be a very concerted action to develop multipointed leadership at the village front. There should also be a very deliberate attempt to foster responsive and responsible peoples organisations like Mahila Mandals and Youth clubs. All these mean that there needs to be enormous patience, enormous flexibility of operations and time to sit and talk with the villagers and work with the villagers. Even though some of the Government officers may be committed and feel like doing all these, but the system is such that they cannot afford the time that is needed. Therefore, this is the time to realise that non-governmental organisations need to be fostered, need to be encouraged and need to be entrusted with responsibility to play their meaningful role in the national development.

Let us now come to the programme of planning for rural development. Most unfortunately, somebody in Delhi or in the capital city plans for the villages. But the beauty and genius of the 5,46,000 villages in India is that no two villages are alike. The resources are different, the attitudes are different and the reactions are different. How then, can there be a uniform programme for development in the entire country? On top of it, the villagers need to be involved in planning their own development programmes. At least now there is a growing need to decentralise the planning and take the villagers needs, aspirations and resources into consideration and let them decide their own line of action. Let us not go with a preconceived notion or preplanned programmes. Let there be an amount earmarked for development. Let it be earmarked to the peoples organisations and let them take the responsibility for implementing the line of action. Can we think in these lines? Can we leave the responsibility of planning the programme and its implementation to the villagers? Can we release the creative energies of the villagers for their own improvement? I close here giving definition of rural development as per Robert Chambers (Rural Development – Putting the Last First, 1983 Longmans). Rural Development is a strategy to enable a specific group of people, poor rural women and men, to gain for themselves and their children more of what they want and they need. It involves helping the poorest amongst those who need a livelihood in the rural areas to demand and control more of the benefits of development. The group includes small farmers, tenants and the leaders.”

This note was presented by Late Dr. BV Parameswara Rao at the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) on June 25, 1985

Recap of 2019

What better way to start the New Year, than by remembering all that happened in the old one. Here are the top 10 highlights of 2019, that make for markers to start the New Year.

Farmer field schools (FFS)

While Farmers’ Field Schools have been successful internationally, it was for the first time that BCT KVK brought local implementation. Given the impracticality for scientists to visit multiple places at once, the concept of FFS was launched in the month of May in 5 villages of Dimili, Teruvupalli, Mamidivada, JV Palem and Haripalem.  Farmers are evincing good participation and an enthusiasm to learn.

Dr. BV Parameswara Rao passes away

The year 2019 brought with it deeply saddening losses as well. June 9 was a dark day, as BCTs founding father Dr. BV Parameswara Rao passed away.  His demise left thousands in tears, and condolences poured in from various quarters. Many sent notes of their association with Dr. Rao, and how he had shaped their decisions to work for social causes or even return to India to work for the country.

Trainings for women

From bakery to mushroom units, from tailoring to value addition to commonly available jackfruit, a range of training programs were conducted over the year for women. Saplings were distributed to enable homestead gardens, and women learnt how to prepare nutritious food for infants as well. Through these programs, 100s of women received training in 2019 across villages and can set up their own units.

“Prerana” program

July marked the launch of the Prerana program in tribal areas. The result of a collaboration between BCT, the Department of School Education, Government of Andhra Pradesh, VIBHA, USA and Sikshana Foundation, Bengaluru, this initiative will work to improve the standards of education for 78,000 tribal children from class 1st to 8th. Encouraging peer-to-peer learning, the initiative is receiving positive response from both teachers and students.

Meity with IT

BCT-conceptualized ‘Grameena Incubation Center’, was selected as one of the 34 Incubation Centers across India. Selected under the Technology Incubation for Development of Entrepreneurs (TIDE 2.0), BCT will now start 2 agriculture based Incubation centers per year for the next 5 years. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), New Delhi, will provide support to ideate and field-test ideas.

QRT Team visits

November 27th and 28th marked the visit by the Quinquennial Review Team (QRT) to BCT KVK. Reviewing the work undertaken from 2011 to 2019, the team visited the cluster villages under DFI (Doubling the farmers income), gave valuable inputs and interacted with villagers.

Training for PwDs

Customised training for specially abled at SMART centers became a reality. 14 trainees with intellectual disabilities from Arunodaya Special School, were chosen for the Gajuwaka center, while 9 were selected for the Autonagar SMART Technical center. The training programme started on December 3, ‘World Disability Day’. Students at SMART T Autonagar will learn to assemble electronic devices while those at Gajuwaka center will learn CRS (Customer relationship and sales), Basic IT and typing skills.

TRC Phase 2 begins

Reaching to the physically challenged people, affected in Hudhud cyclone through BCT is the Tata Relief Committee programme. On 6th November, Phase 2 was inaugurated. 229 People with disabilities (PwDs) were identified as beneficiaries and 83 PwDs from 41 villages from 10 mandals attended the assessment camp for prosthetics, orthotics, special chairs.

Accolades & more

Constantly measuring its success through the success of its stakeholders, Team BCT had many reasons to rejoice this year. Farmer Smt.Desagiri Bangaramma from the tribal village of Thajangi, flew to Delhi, to participate at the ‘Farm innovators meet 2019’ on July 16 and 17. Farmer Sri Janapareddy Chinna attended the Indian Science Congress at Bengaluru. On May 24 BCT KVK also ranked Number 1, nationally, for its implementation of 23 training programmes under the Krishi Kalyan Abhiyaan.

 “Cheyutha” program for adolescents

Awareness on life skills, reproductive health, hygiene and nutrition, and other social issues for adolescents, was on focus through 2019. Tackling the issues of child marriages, early motherhood, health and gender discrimination, the initiative spread awareness to 11-16 year olds at their schools.

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