Announcement Archive

Saris, Crafts, and Artisan Food: More than Just a Livelihood

Monday, September 29th, 2014

story from Tokyo Development Learning Center

The seventh Japan Social Development Fund Dialogue Series was held at the Tokyo Development Learning Center on May 28, 2014. The series initiated in 2012 by the World Bank Global Partnerships and Trust Fund Operations (CFPTO), the World Bank Tokyo Office, and the World Bank Tokyo Development Learning Center (TDLC), disseminates the achievements and lessons learned from projects funded by the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) by bringing together project members, beneficiaries, stakeholders, and development practitioners, to provide a platform for communication among stakeholders, development practitioners, policy makers, and the general public.

The session showcased this time was “Jiyo!: Making Globalization Work for the Rural Poor in India”, a livelihoods program to strengthen the capacity and improve access to decent sustainable livelihoods that helped the poorest, most vulnerable, and landless communities in India whose main income depends on traditional cultural industries .

Prior to the session, World Bank Task Team Leader Vinayak Narayan Ghatate in India had sent to TDLC samples of beautiful hand-worked saris, scarves, coasters, and other merchandise that the project beneficiaries, the artisans had made. The items were put on display in the front of the room at TDLC’s studio on the day of the session.

“They are so beautiful…Are these on sale?  I want to buy them.” A participant who had arrived early to TDLC asked about the colorful textiles on display.

The session kicked off with Yasusuke Tsukagoshi, special representative of the World Bank Tokyo Office explaining the World Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity and how the JSDF directly contributes directly to attain those goals by helping the poorest of the poorest through innovative means. He was followed by Deputy Director of Development Institutions Divison, Tatsuya Sugiura of the Japanese finance ministry, who outlined the unique features of the JSDF.  The World Bank India Country Office Director, Onno Ruhl was also present in the room in Tokyo.

Onno Ruhl
WB India Country Office Director, Onno Ruhl speaking to the audience during the 7th JSDF Dialogue Series

“I don’t personally like the name “livelihoods,” said Ruhl as he introduced the project.  “Because ‘livelihoods’ sounds like helping people to survive. I would actually like to help people realize their dreams and get out of poverty, which is much more ambitious than livelihoods.”

As the session progressed, the project details were explained by Ghatate and Vikas Kunj and Anandhi Dasraj who represented the implementing partners. Three of the project beneficiaries spoke about how their lives had been transformed after joining the program. It became very clear to the session participants that the JSDF indeed, offered more than just a livelihood.

Narmada Devi, a female project beneficiary representing Madhubani Shilp Sangh, a cooperative for female artisans skilled in the traditional Mithila painting technique explained that before joining the project, she could not sell her work outside of her home due to family and social pressures. She had no choice but to accept the lowly set prices offered by the middle men who came to collect her work at her home. Because the painters had to work outside of their home to join the cooperative, some women faced resistance from their family members—husbands, fathers, or in-law mothers , and they could not join the cooperative. Over time, as the cooperative members received more business, others in the community saw the economic contribution and the value that the cooperative members were showing through their work. More women joined the cooperative including those women whose families initially resisted. Some young women were also able to finance their own education with the earnings from working at the cooperative.

Karnati Madhu, a male project beneficiary who is part of the Ikat weaving cluster said that there used to be about 3,000 weavers in the area where he lives. The availability of the power looms and cheap machine-made textiles had forced about 2,500 of the weavers to abandon their trade and migrate to bigger cities to work as construction workers. Some men have even committed suicide due to economic hardship. He said that after joining the cooperative, members were able to design their own products and were no longer dependent on middlemen who would only give weavers partial pay because the designs came from the middlemen.  Madhu also added that joining the project has actually helped his whole family because weaving is essentially a family business, in which women have traditionally been responsible for dyeing the yarns that the men weave.

The Asian Heritage Foundation (AHF), a non-governmental organization based in Delhi with over 30 years of experience and expertise in promoting rural artisans and crafts nationally and internationally implemented the JIYO! Project and supported the artisans develop their own craft cluster institutions and build capacity. The AHF staff also helped to devise innovative artisan financial tools, address issues of technology obsolescence, market development, and facilitate and explore new marketing and distribution channels.

Map of India showing JIYO interventions
Map of India showing project intervention sites. Source: Jiyo! Project pamphlet. The Asian Heritage Foundation/The World Bank

They were very keen on preserving the cultural heritage in all of the clusters that they worked in—the traditional methods of painting, various weaving techniques, embroidery, basketry, culinary practices, lacquered toy-making and shadow puppetry in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar—while at the same time providing contemporary product design development training so that the artisans can produce new products that are marketable and competitive in the current global arena.

“One of the key important things to understand is that many people have the capacity and skill set to get out of poverty if you find a way to improve that skill set and connect it to markets. Many people are able to do things that they can sell in many different forms.” As the World Bank Country Director Ruhl mentioned, the AHF did just that: improve the skill set and connect it to markets.

Anandhi Dasraj, project manager of AHF explained that for the Ikat weaving cluster, his organization focused on developing product designs which “the mass-producing machine looms couldn’t make, but the hands could.” Their innovative solution was to create asymmetrical designs. In this way, the artisans were able to retain and develop their traditional weaving techniques and carve out a niche in the market. 

Jiyo! Foods
Source: Jiyo! Project pamphlet. The Asian Heritage Foundation/The World Bank

At the World Bank India Office, where the project members and beneficiaries gathered, two more women representing the Guntur Food cluster were present and spoke of their successes in expanding their catering and food business. They also gave examples from their cluster in which several women who had become widows at a very young age were able to earn a living for her family by working at the cooperative.

As one Japanese participant in the audience appropriately described, the project “did not indiscriminately introduced new capital, but, it took full advantage of the existing techniques,” the cultural heritage of the people in India. 

After the project beneficiaries had shared their experience in the project, the session participants had a chance to ask questions. The participants were a mix of university students and faculty members, development practitioners, NGO/CSO staff and corporate CSR persons among others. The participants linked their past experience in similar projects and asked how the JIYO! project manager and beneficiaries had dealt with particular issues such as how the project involved men and accounted for gender balance, marketing, and project sustainability after funding stopped.

Remarks by TDLC Manager, Tomoyuki Naito, signaled the close of the seventh Japan Social Development Fund Dialogue Series. Many participants stayed in the room well after the session, admiring the hand woven saris and textiles and other items on display in the room, chatting with other participants, and exchanging business cards.
“It was great to hear not only about the financial accomplishment, but also the personal and mental growth and empowerment,” a session participant commented on the project beneficiaries’ experience.

“I liked the Q&A session the most,” said one participant when asked what they liked most about the session. “I was really moved by what the project members said they gained besides income; ‘happiness’, independence, and pride. Also, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk to the local people directly.”

The JSDF Dialogue Series is hosted several times throughout the year. Please check our top page for upcoming programs.

Related Links

To learn more about Jiyo! Project or to visit their e-commerce site: