It’s great to see the very real change that Pebble is able to bring to women’s lives in these areas. It’s nice to hear their stories first hand. Hathay Bunano, the non profit organisation, which makes the Pebble toys started with the intention of bringing good quality and fairly paid work to women in very remote and rural locations. It was only after working for some years that we became aware of the many other benefits that this also brings. Seeing the benefits that making Pebble toys brings to conservation is really rewarding. Bangladesh is a small country geographically with a huge population of more than 160 million people. As such the land and forests and wildlife is very important and also heavily under threat.
24th July 2016
Barisal is located in the southern part of Bangladesh. This area is known as the land of rivers, canals and ponds because everywhere you look it appears there is water. As such fishing is the main source of income for people in this area. Barisal is also known as home of the national fish of Bangladesh – the Hilsha. It is the most wonderful of fish with a very delicate flavour and lots of tiny little bones so you are forced to eat it slowly and savour every mouthful. I remember the first time I tried this wonderful fish and to this day, it is still my favourite.
Unfortunately the Hilsha have been in decline due to overfishing. There are laws preventing the catching of Hilsha under a certain size. However in areas where there is no alternative employment, it is almost inevitable that these laws are avoided.
Fishing is a precarious occupation in a country where many of the boats are poor quality and poorly maintained. In these areas there are also a large number of fishing widows.
Image: Fishing in Bangladesh is all too often in small boats and can be a precarious way of life.
Creating partnerships for supporting the fishing communities
To address these problems, USAID, the Government of Bangladesh and WorldFish have come together. Part of their work has been in developing a partnership with Hathay Bunano to create alternative livelihoods for the families dependent on fishing and for the fishing widows. WorldFish initially identified communities in Chandramohan, Daulatkhan, Manpur, Mehendiganj and Kolapara. We then started a process of dialogue with the communities to see if making Pebble toys for Hathay Bunano would be an interesting alternative livelihood for them. There was a good deal of interest in all of these areas.
Image: Village dialogue introducing the Hathay Bunano concept.
The initial remit was to train 500 women to make crochet Pebble toys. There would be 100 from each of these areas. The training is now complete and the women have moved on to production work. They now have an alternative income from fishing to sustain their families when they are not allowed to catch the Hilsha.
Image: at the village dialogue, checking the Pebble toys with interest
Connecting the fishing communities with markets
The women were very interested to see the Pebble toys and immediately felt that they would be able to learn how to make them. Particularly they were interested that Pebble toys have demand from overseas and already have customers. In the past some of the women had tried to be involved in local handicrafts but had found that there was little or no market for selling things. As such they were happy to learn about international standards and quality control so that they could make toys which already had an established market and sales channels.
Image: learning about international standards and quality control and consistency.
We are excited when partnerships with Hathay Bunano for making Pebble toys are able to bring an alternative livelihood to remote and rural communities. We are particularly happy when these partnerships also have a conservation aspect. We like to do our little part to contribute to sustainable fishing in Bangladesh. I have written many times in blogs and papers over the years about the power of partnership. There is so much that needs to be done in this world and none of us can do it alone. But together we can all do something little and together that makes something big. At Pebble we can partner with development agencies and connect trained artisans to international markets. As consumers you can all buy fair trade where it’s available and actively expand those markets. Together we can all support those communities.
17th March 2017
Working with fishing communities
The coastal areas of Bangladesh are one of the areas that we work in with the fishing communities. Making Pebble toys can be done anywhere. That’s part of the beauty of it. Remote locations are not a problem for us and we can successfully teach anyone who wants to learn, to knit or crochet and make these toys. As such we are often asked to partner with communities where there is already some livelihood but where there are times of scarcity so that the income from making toys can supplement the families irregular income. And we are happy to do it. Its great when the work that we do also contributes to conservation and climate change mitigation and all other important issues.
It was on this basis that we started to work with the USAID funded ECOFISH programme in partnership with WorldFish and the Department of Fisheries in Bangladesh. The Hilsa fish is the national fish of Bangladesh but it was faced with extinction from over-fishing and particularly from fishing of the young and not giving enough time for the fish to reach maturity in order to conserve the population.
The programme has made a fabulous video explaining about all the problems and issues in fishing Hilsa and detailing the work going on to mitigate these.
Introducing Pebble to the fishing communities
Not surprisingly there was lots of interest from the women in the communities when we approached them with the option of making Pebble toys. It’s always so rewarding when the women are so eager to learn and enthusiastic to get started.
Image: women in Barisal putting their hands up to say they want to learn how to make Pebble toys
You can see the Pebble toys being made in the video from the Ecofish programme as well. You can see that this is a training session because they are familiar Pebble designs but made in practice yarn which is different colours from the production colours.
Image: women learning how to make Pebble toys
Image: it’s a really beautiful part of Bangladesh
Image: one of the women has been selected as a supervisor and is learning how to keep the records
13th December 2014
USAID video of Sundarbans
We are delighted to be partnering with USAID, through Winrock International, in the Sundarbans. The Sundarbans is the largest natural mangrove forest in the world and the people living within it are extremely poor with very little opportunity. USAID have made a fabulous video with beautiful pictures and a very clear story telling us all about the Sundarbans, its opportunities and its challenges.
Image: from USAID video Sundarbans: Conservation is Development
You can see the full USAID video here
Image: Mutka from USAID film
The story of the Sundarbans is told through the eyes of a young woman, Mukta.
Image: Pebble training centre in the Sundarbans
The work of Pebble and its training side, Hathay Bunano, is featured very nicely in the video showing how it can be an alternative livelihood source so that women no longer need to chop down the trees to sell the firewood for money and instead can do this handicraft work and earn money to help their families.
Image: Royal Bengal tiger from the Sundarbans
The Sundarbans are a protected site and home to the Royal Bengal tiger. This presents challenges for the communities living in the forest and USAID has been helping them by sharing strategies for co-existing safely with the endangered tigeers.
Image: Mother and daughter from the USAID film
As with all our work, its about working with whole communities, keeping families together and providing new sources of income to create very real economic development within these areas and grow their otherwise isolated economies.
We hope that our partnership with USAID will continue to run for the benefit of all these people.