A village that thrives on eco-friendly product
Over time, Bhalain village in Naogaon's Mahadevpur upazila has adopted the name of 'pakha graam', where eco-friendly handheld fans are made from leaves of palmyra palm trees.
Out of the two hundred families that live in the village, 35 kilometres away from Naogaon town, most are now involved in making the handheld fans, also known as 'taal pakha'.
Almost everyone in Bhalain -- young and old, schoolchildren and housewives -- use their spare time in the making of the fans, contributing to attaining economic stability of their households and ultimately that of their rural economy.
While speaking with the villagers recently, many said it is possible for one person to make about Tk 70 from making 100 hand fans every day.
'Taal pakha' maker Anwar Hossain has been in the trade for 20 years. He and his wife with three female workers can make around six to seven thousand fans in one month, he said.
After finishing household chores at their own houses, the workers come to his house in the morning and start making fans.
A palmyra leaf is first cut to give it a rounded shape with its main stem sticking out, so it can be used as the handle of the fan. Fine stalks, carved out of bamboo strips and dipped in paint, are then sewn on both sides of the leaf's outer edge. Finally, colourful motifs are hand-painted on the fan.
Anwar's wife Shiuli Begum said she helps out her husband every day while she also takes care of their two children and everyday household work.
Saidul Islam, a 'taal pakha' trader, said about 25 years ago, when his family did not own any land, he started to help his father in his hand fan trading business. They used to buy hand fans from Bhalain village and sell those at different markets in Naogaon.
The family turned the corner after they started to make the fans themselves. Now Saidul employs five female workers to make hand fans at a small factory set up in his house.
He now makes a decent living from the factory that produces over eight thousand pieces of hand fans per month. With the income, he made an earthen two-storey house on six decimals of land and bought a motorbike too, said Saidul, whose father still makes hand fans at 65 years of age.
Each piece of palmyra leaf, the main component, is bought for Tk 5 from different parts of Naogaon. After spending about Tk 3 more on bamboo stalks, paint, threads and labour, each fan usually sells for Tk 10 to 12, he said.
Cutting and preparation of the components are usually done by male workers, while the sewing, painting and finishing touches are done by female workers. Sometimes students in their free time also take part in the work alongside their parents.
Although 'taal pakha', made in Bhalain village, is now available in all major cities including Dhaka, Chattogram Sylhet and Rajshahi for their high demands, its makers are sometimes incurring losses due to fund shortage, Saidul said.
In order to recover the money invested throughout the year, they are often compelled to sell the excess production at low prices during cooler months, when demand for hand fans diminishes.
Bhalain village fan makers would find it greatly beneficial if commercial banks would come forward to offer them small loans at affordable interest rates, Saidul added.