Talagune lass brings glory to ancient handloom village
Talagune, the famed village for Dumbara handloom textiles, is a sleepy little village in Gandeka Korale in the present Udadumbara electorate surrounded by Alokalakanda, Dumbulemada Kanda, Ellegalakanda and Kurumudunegala Kanda on all sides.
A descendant from an ancient handloom weaving /manufacturing family, namely Yakdesselege Dayawathie, won a prestigious golden award in 2006 for her exhibit at an all-island exhibition to bring glory to the village.
The village water supply is from Ellegala Oya, Kerela Oya and Meethota Oya – perenial water resources. Campbell Lawrie in his report says that three fourths of the paddy fields in this village is cultivated during the Maha season and one fourth in the Yala season.
They live on a hand to mouth existence throughout the year. Yet they are an happy and contented lot, cut off from the hustland bustle of the modern day cosmopolitan life. History records that Buwanekabahu I, who ruled at Dambadeniya and Yapahuwa from 1272-1284 AD, founded the village and the present day inhabitants of the village are said to be descended from that household.
The king, who traded with Egypt, informed his counterpart, that he had twenty seven palaces. He would have had his main palace in Talagune.
Lawrie in his report says that people who live in this village grew cotton and made clothes out of them. He has identified three families who thrived on this craft. They are Pussekumburege, Yakdesselege and Wagalawattege. The story I unveil is about a descendent from one of these families who won the golden award for the All Island National Handloom Ransalu Exhibition held at the BMICH from December 19-21, 2006. Let me conclude the past history of the village before I get on to the present plight of this entrepreneur from the village. Talagune people joined the 1818 Uva Rebellion against the British Raj. One notable character was Talagune Wannaku Nilame from the village, who was banished to Mauritius charged for treason after all his properties were confiscated. He died of cholera on 15-12-1819. In the aftermath, people fled for safety having abandoned the village.
Having given a brief description on the background of this historical village, let me come back to narrate the problems faced by these enterprising handloom weavers of today.
Yakdesselege Dayawathie, a descendent from a family that thrived on the cloth industry from the time of ancient kings, as mentioned in the introduction to this article, was a small scale weaver who eked out a parlous living from her paltry earnings. She had no one to assist her financially and give her guidance on the modern techniques of manufacture for the competitive market.
Her attempts to raise capital failed due to her inability to find collateral. She failed to infuse finance or new technical know-how to her venture.
Her products were transported from Talagune to Colombo, where a reputed handloom business firm bought them. She bought whatever items produce from her earnings and also receive in return new ideas on production and finish from her buyers. This nexus went on for years until she finally met officials of the EDB Kandy branch, Department of Textiles and Ministry of Handloom Textile Ministry. These officials gave her an exposure to the modern market by offering her trade stalls in their routine exhibitions. She was able to get a glimpse of what was going on in the trade outside her village, and gained new insights in improving the trade to meet modern market requirements.
Through the Kandy branch of the EDB, she was able to obtain a substantial donation from IDEAS - Initiatives in Development of Entrepreneur Approaches and Strategies. The organization headed by a Management Consultant and one time international Civil Servant Laith Godamunne, who has been an immense help to people like her. Today Yakdesselege Dayawathie is the proud owner of Lakdana Handloom Textile Ltd.
Opportunity for youth inclined towards leather goods production
Industrial Development Board Centre for Leather Products and Footwear Manufacturing (CLPFM) invites youth who are interested in leather products and footwear manufacturing to register with their centre and get a professional training.
The centre has the requisite machinery and equipment. Youth would be able to manufacture products while getting on-the-line training by the industrial experts, according to CLPFM Director L. P . S. Karunadasa.
He said youth today in small and medium industries are anxious to set up businesses, mainly, manufacturing centres, without undergoing any kind of training, whatsoever. That would be a cardinal error in their line of thinking. Manufacture of any product needs familiarity with modern manufacturing methods and, most importantly, knowing local and foreign market trends.
"It is vital to educate them on these aspects to make their enterprises viable," said Karunadasa.
The centre will offer the trainees knowledge on product manufacturing, selecting raw material, using modern equipment, accounting, doing market follow -ups and business planning.
A reasonable fee would be charged for the course. CLPFM would help to market the products manufactured by the trainees and after the training it would help them to set up their own businesses.
Low quality pepper – a stumbling block for exports
With Sri Lanka looking for overseas markets for pepper exports and India trying to restrict pepper imports from Sri Lanka, the inferior quality of Sri Lankan pepper has proved to be the bugbear in this respect.
Although Sri Lankan pepper is enriched with beneficial chemical properties, it loses its inherent goodnessto a good extent in the processing stages. This impacts adversely in tapping sophisticated foreign markets for pepper such as European Union and United States, according to industry experts.
India has been the county’s main pepper buyer for decades. Under the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA), India was able to import Sri Lankan pepper tariff-free. As a result much of Sri Lanka’s pepper ended up in India. It was reported that 98 per cent of total pepper produced in the county was exported to India in 2005.
However, since November 2006, the Indian Government has been trying to get Sri Lanka to agree to limited imports of pepper from Sri Lanka by the introduction of an annual ceiling of 2500 tonnes.
The main reason for this move is that Indian pepper farmers are averse to Sri Lankan pepper, which is relatively cheap, from coming into their market and placing their livelihood at risk.
It was reported that Indian domestic pepper consumption was around 3500 tonnes.The rest of the imports totalling around 7000 tonnes is absorbed by the extraction industry and export-oriented units for processing and reexporting from India.
"If India implements the restrictions, it is vital to look to other international markets, but then Sri Lankan pepper should be at its maximum potential," said Export Agriculture Department Director Dr. M. Illangasinhe.
He said that tapping other markets will bring in a sizable foreign exchange earning for the country strengthening the national economy.
He added that countries like Vietnam, which has quality human resources and technology, has tapped the international markets, our country has been left far behind.
"In Sri Lanka, small and medium pepper holders are the main pepper suppliers and they do not adopt modern methods to produce export quality pepper. We have to educate pepper producers intensively and extensively on modern methods of production if we are to compete on equal terms with other pepper exporters," said Dr. Illangasinghe.
He said the Agricultural Ministry has taken steps to educate the pepper community village-wise.