Subsidies, handholding, spoon feeding - that's the route that development projects in India typically take.
The idea was to do something out of the ordinary - empower the rural communities in bamboo- and canerich areas in such a manner that within a year they would start thinking like businessmen and businesswomen.
To usher in a culture of market economics and let that dictate rural development. To set up community-based venture capital funds that would catalyze entrepreneurship.
Thus was born CIBART - the Centre for Indian Bamboo Resource and Technology - a not-for-profit, networked organization incorporated under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. Set up as an independent body by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) in December 2002, CIBART comprises enthusiastic professionals from diverse backgrounds.
CIBART has set up daughter organizations in several states across the country, with backward linkages into the villages and forward linkages into technical and other development agencies at the national and international levels.
CIBART's core team of India-specific professionals, who have considerable experience in bamboo and cane development, work with governments, civil society and the community to make bamboo-based sustainable development a reality.
Today CIBART over eight years old. And it has made inroads in policy, raising awareness, providing technical support, training and implementing projects.
Bamboo is more than 'a poor person's timber'. It offers earthquake-proof housing. It reduces the impact of cyclones. It remediates degraded soil. It can be the resort you vacation in, the bed you sleep in, the lamp that lights up your book and the food you eat. All the time, benefiting the poor.
CIBART works through building networks and partnerships. CIBART has been visualized as a common shared platform for all organizations interested in working with bamboo.
CIBART will help actualize this untapped potential by guiding and training communities to set up bamboobased enterprises. CIBART takes a practical approach to development issues using technology. If the Internet brings communities in remote outposts face to face with experts in many countries, then GIS helps it identify bamboo rich areas and map out policies and action plans accordingly. Progress of projects can be monitored at the click of a mouse.
The aim of CIBART is to achieve environmental security, livelihood security and economic development through the sustainable use of bamboo and rattan (cane). Given India's rich bamboo resources and the people's natural affinity to this grass, there are immense opportunities.
This local organization has extensive linkages down to each village, backed by field technical resource centers at the sub-district level. And, at the other end of the chain, links with buyers as far away as Europe are established. CIBART has a global outlook, yet one that addresses local needs. It is for the communities, but is market driven and businesslike. For CIBART, the community is the primary beneficiary, market the goal and the production of craft and manufactured goods using industrial approaches the means.
Before venturing into any state, CIBART ensures that all the backward and forward linkages are in place. In each state, CIBART sets up an independent daughter organization that will professionally manage bamboo and cane activities. The majority shareholders in this company are the community.
CIBART's promise is to service communities at their doorstep. Which means it brings experts, resources and tools together in their backyard? For instance, Filipino design experts, European buyers and African bamboo scientists have been linked to remote regions of the country and some had a direct interface with communities that have had limited contact with even urban Indian visitors.