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Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge MOST/CIRAN


Production of organic carpets


This is a pilot project for the production of carpets using sheep wool, cotton and natural dyes made from plants, botanicals and other naturally occurring pigments in the Northern Hills of Uttar Pradesh.

The local Bhotia people have traditionally been a community of sheep rearers. The menfolk took care of the animals while the women made carpets in their homes. The carpets were made using sheep’s wool and natural dyes from plants and other naturally occuring pigments and colours. The Bhotia also grew their own cotton, which was used to tie the wool. In recent decades, as a result of rapid industrialization, the Bhotia gradually replaced the sheep’s wool with synthetic wool, and the natural dyes with chemical dyes. The chemical dyes were easily available on the market and they had a longer useful life than natural dyes, which would fade in direct sunlight. However, the chemical dyes pollute the environment and, since most of them are Azo-dyes, they are carcinogenic. There is a large market in Europe for carpets made of natural wool and dyes.

The Society for Employment Welfare and Agricultural Knowledge (SEWAK) started a pilot project to revive traditional carpet weaving in the Kumaon Region. The prices of natural carpets are now 300% higher than those for synthetic ones.


Region: Uttarkhand
Neighbourhood/village: Timala Bagar, Bageshwar District


Compared to other countries Indian carpet exports come just after Iran. Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) State is one of the major exporters of this handicraft product. Most of the carpets produced in India are made with synthetic wool and chemical dyes, which pollute surface waters and are causing cancer. There is now lot of demand for natural products on European markets. With this in mind, SEWAK started a pilot project in the Kumaon Hills of U.P. State. The people taking part in this project are using their indigenous knowledge to make natural carpets.


Economic sustainability: natural carpets sell at a higher price and therefore make more money.

Environmental sustainability: natural dyes do not pollute surface waters and are not harmful to skin or to plants.

Other types of sustainability: increased incomes for the carpet weavers will enhance the educational and general development of the next generation.


The main stakeholders and beneficiaries are the members of the community as a whole, and households and women in particular. Nearly 50 families are directly involved in implementing the project, producing natural carpets through the intervention of SEWAK.



The natural carpets have a ready market and yield 3 times more income than the synthetic ones. They are safe for the weavers and do not contaminate the environment. The raw materials can be produced in a closed system within the community.


Since the plants and other material used in making carpets are area specific, it is difficult to replicate the model. The increase in demand for natural carpets can lead to ecological imbalance, in terms of the plants and other botanicals used as raw materials for dyes. This can be overcome by cultivating the plants required in the farmers’ fields.


  • The hill people, who have less area suitable for farming, can rear sheep for the wool. The plants used for making natural dyes can be grown in their fields, which will increase their income.
  • Naturally produced carpets can be sold for 3 times the price of synthetic ones.
  • It makes the environment safer to live in.
  • The project started with two families and now more than fifty families are involved in natural carpet production.
  • Natural production does not pollute the environment, it is safe for workers and users, and increases the incomes of the poor families involved in the project.

The specific practice is rather difficult to replicate. The idea and method can be replicated, but would have to meet certain conditions and overcome a number of obstacles:

  • Carpet weaving is a difficult skill, and proper training will be required for its transfer elsewhere.
  • The plants and botanicals used for making the natural dyes grow in a specific climate. Research will therefore be required into their cultivation in other climatic conditions.
  • The processes of preparing the natural dyes and dying the wool are secret and the people of the tribe do not want to share them with outsiders. They are considered the tribe’s own copyright and must remain with them.
SEWAK has now set up a carpet weaving training centre in the village Timala Bagar, in the Bageshwar District of U.P. State, where 20 young women are currently receiving training. They come from villages in adjoining areas, which means that, after the training, the craft will be dissipated throughout a wider area. The peer reviewer also heard of similar activities in Chennai, India. Information on these can be obtained from Dr. Deborah Thiagarajan of the Madras Craft Foundation (E-mail: mcfdak@md3.vsnl.net.in).

Replication of this craft will need the agreement of SEWAK and provisions of IPR etc. The peer reviewer mentioned that the difficulties of replicating the model can be seen not only as a weakness (see above) but also as a strength. These natural products serve a regular but small top-end market in Europe, and the problems with replication protect the interests of the weavers

From: 1996 to …..

USD 5,000.00


Harish Chander Tewari
SEWAK (see below)


Organization that provided this information:

Society for Employment Welfare and Agricultural Knowledge (SEWAK)
236 139 Haldwani, Nainital, U.P.
Telephone: +91-5946-25260 / 25350 / 25711 / 22440
Fax: +91-11-6882618 / 594625268
E-mail: cds.cdes@axcess.net.in

Cooperating organizations:

  • Ganesh Emporium - London - United Kingdom
  • Development Commission - Handicrafts - New Delhi - India

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