The Indigo Project: Harnessing Traditional Art for Cultural-Sensitive Livelihood

 

"When we started the Indigo Project, there were no takers. It was only Globe who really worked with us on this," says Benilda Camba, Enterprise Development Coordinator of Non-Timber Forest Products – Exchange Programme (NTFP-EP). As a non-stock, non-profit, non-government organization, NTFP-EP assists and works with forest-dependent communities in the Philippines.

 

The Indigo Project develops natural indigo dye powdering facilities in Quezon, Palawan, Aklan, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga, and Bukidnon. Through its My Fair Share Program, Globe supports this social enterprise with information and communication technology tools, capacity building support, and market access.

Ruth Canlas, Executive Director of NTFP-EP Philippines and Managing Trustee of the Custom-Made Craft Center (CMCC)—the marketing arm for all the communities being supported by NTFP-EP Philippines—says, "Right now, the ability of the indigenous people to manage and use their resources for their livelihoods is threatened by pressures from mainstream society and by policies that don't take into account their indigenous people (IP)'s culture and needs."

 

Belinda Camba and Ruth Canlas of NTFP-EP and CMCC

 

NTFP-EP Philippines and CMCC work with indigenous people in developing culture-sensitive livelihoods. They also extend assistance to sustainably manage the resources (non-timber forest products) used, and help in capacity-building and product and technology development. Compliance with government regulation is provided by NTFP-EP Philippines. For their marketing needs, they're linked with CMCC and other local marketing arms.

 

Forest-dependent communities of Madalag, Aklan harvest indigo leaves from their area, some from their own backyard.

 

Indigo is indigofera tinctoria, a shrub where indigo dye naturally comes from. The traditional art of extracting and applying indigo on textiles has been forgotten over the years due to the emergence of synthetic dyes. For consistency of product and expediency in production, CMCC sought assistance from the Philippine Textile Research Institute to combine modern technology with age-old practices, which was then taught to the community members.

 

It takes three months for the indigo plant to flower, at which point, the leaves are gathered and manually fermented, filtered, aerated, and powdered. CMCC buys the powdered dye that the communities produce, supplementing their livelihood and providing them additional income with very little capital.

 

After typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged Aklan, Globe expanded the areas of support in Madalag, Aklan from just one to 11 barangays. This expansion helped communities to grow more Indigo plants in the area. For a faster and more bountiful harvest throughout the year, the plants were grown in riverbeds, backyards, and vacant lots where the soil is rich with nutrients, thanks to a nitrogen-fixer.

 

Though it's still in its initial stages, indigo dye is fast gaining a following among designers. Loungewear designer Twinkle Ferraren is a Filipino jeans maker who uses it to dye Japanese natural cotton. Anthony Cruz Legarda is a Filipino-American designer and textile technologist who brings the product to his shop in California. Which this increasing distinction, CMCC is determined to meet increasing demand by supporting the communities who are producing the supply.

 

LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY

 

Various handmade items are on display at the CMCC showroom in Quezon City.

 

"We started with Internet; all members of the staff were given Globe Tattoo for their work on the field. It's a big help to have Internet access, wherever you are," Camba says.

 

Canlas adds, "Recently, we were provided with Globe Charge—a credit card facility through mobile phones. Who would ever think that we would have a facility similar to those that stores in malls have? We're also now working on having an inventory system. This has been a problem for us as we have a lot of products and we have difficulty tracking them. We're now also working on selling products online. As we have only one store, our showroom, this would definitely boost our sales."

 

With Globe's partnership, CMCC now has the capability to offer its products to customers abroad through Skype. "We're not business people, we're more involved in community development. But all this technology helps drive the business," says Camba.

 

Their vision is to contribute to forest conservation and improving the quality of life of forest-dependent communities. She concludes, "By doing so, we will all benefit."

Contact: Kesha Condez 0915-5170836

[email protected]

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http://www.cmcrafts.org/