The Adarsh Hathkargha Cooperative Society (AHCS) was founded in 2004 by the villagers of Jhiri, Rajasthan, in order to provide alternative sources of income for the area’s farmers. Many of the individuals involved in the establishment of AHCS are also members of Hum Kisan Sanghatan (“Our Farmers’ Collective”). The sanghatan is an informal group of farmers dedicated to improving the lives of farming families by raising awareness about issues ranging from harmful debt cycles due to unfair money lenders, to domestic violence, to religious tolerance.
Several members of the community had wanted to establish a craft cooperative in the village for some time, but had lacked the capital to invest in such an initiative. In 2004 however, due to a chance encounter with a non-profit looking to unload two handlooms, the Jhiri community was able to acquire some of the start-up capital it needed for next to nothing. The basic materials needed to begin producing fabric were funded by a government initiative providing a grant for the purchase of cotton yarn, and by some small private donations. The first round of training was paid for by the community trainees themselves.
Since 2004, AHCS has grown from two handlooms and ten members to owning 22 handlooms and employing 30 people. The journey has been long and expansion has been slow. However, a recent investment in additional looms and an increase in membership foreshadow a year of growth for AHCS. Most importantly, the cooperative has not lost sight of its original mission: to provide a livelihood that supplements income from farming, can equally employ men and women, has little impact on the environment, stems emigration to towns and cities for work, and provides the greatest benefit possible to the greatest number of people.
The cooperative has been involved in initiatives outside of Jhiri as well. In the past year, it initiated livelihoods training courses in sewing and embroidery. Although the trainees are not official members of the cooperative, AHCS is able to collaborate with them on any projects initiated from within the cooperative. This kind of collaboration with local individuals allows AHCS to employ locals for work, like stitching, that is currently not done within the cooperative.
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11 April, 2011
Three of AHCS’ handlooms have recently been relocated to the nearby village of Akolia. The first was sent to the riverside village two months ago. Since then AHCS member Santoshbai has been working nearly full time producing fabric from her home. The second two looms arrived in Akolia almost two weeks ago, after two AHCS members and their family spent over a month adding two rooms to their house in order to create enough space to house the machines. Although providing a space for the looms was not the only reason for this construction, these members’ own investment in creating such a space demonstrates their commitment to working with the cooperative, and dedication to seeking a livelihood in weaving.
This recent expansion of handloom cloth production to a village away from the Jhiri center represents an important milestone for AHCS. It reflects the Cooperative’s mission to provide a sustainable livelihood to farming that does not involve extensive travel or migration. Two of the three weavers working in Akolia are women, affirming the Cooperative’s belief that providing an opportunity for work within the home will encourage women to work as weavers with our cooperative, empowering them to earn an income on their own and find value for themselves outside of house and farm work.
Preparations for the Akolia looms, such as drumming the thread and winding the warp, will continue to be conducted by our staff at the Jhiri center. The materials will then be transported to Akolia for weaving. Finished cloth will be collected from Akolia and returned to the center for storage and sale.
We expect to see continued success from our members in Akolia, and hope to expand this model to other villages, as we build our membership base and expand the potential of our cooperative.