With sales dwindling over the past several months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, bamboo artisans in Baghar village of Barishal's Gournadi upazila are still holding onto their profession that they mastered in almost half a century.
About 500 inhabitants, a majority of them women, of the village still earn a living by making around 200 different types of baskets, containers, trays and strainers.
Out of nearly 200 families involved in the trade, three families have so far been able to export some of the beautifully crafted items -- locally known as daala, kula and chaalon.
If the others in the village received proper training on how to make the items more attractive to international buyers and necessary support in exporting their goods, the entire village would be able to cope with the financial strain imposed by the pandemic, said many residents of Baghar village, under Mahilara union.
Villager Binay Bepari first took on the trade some 40 years ago after learning the craft from another villager, Siddiqur Rahman. Binay's endeavour soon took off and he never had to look back.
His brother Bipul Bepari and their relative Nikunjo Bepari also found success in the craft.
A skilled artisan can make as high as Tk 15 thousand per month while a daily worker can earn up to Tk 200 each day, depending on the quantity of items produced.
Binay, who recently sent out a shipment of items made with bamboo, said it is possible to make a profit of Tk 30 to 40 thousand in one month from exporting one thousand of the items, worth approximately Tk 2 lakh.
Bipul said the main ingredient they use in their product is a bamboo variety known as 'Talla', which costs Tk 200 to Tk 300 each piece.
After slicing those up, they process the bamboo strips by first dipping those in hot water and then drying those up in the sun. Artisans later use the strips to make different items with intricate details.
As local demands for their bamboo goods continue to fall during the Covid-19 situation, government assistance in exporting the items overseas would enable the age-old craft to survive, he also said.
Echoing Bipul's views, Saikat Guha, chairman of Mahilara Union Parishad, said the government could also declare Baghar village as the 'village of artisans' and provide necessary training to the artisans in the village so they can make export quality bamboo goods according to international demands.
They could make higher profits if a system of direct sale could be established by eliminating intermediaries and interest-free loans were made available for them, said artisan Nikunjo Bepari.