'Rural Craftsmanship, Employment Creation and Poverty Alleviation: The Case of the Bamboo Craftsmanship in Bangladesh'
More than 30 percent of total population in Bangladesh is extremely poor. Halving the existing poverty level as per the millennium development goals of the UN by 2015 is the major challenge of the country. The question arises as to how to eradicate extreme poverty quickly? Successful experience of the East Asian countries reveals that creation of employment opportunities in the non-farm industrial sector for the rural poor is instrumental to eradicate poverty. Due to stagnant large and medium scales industrial sector and sole dependence on agriculture sector for employment and income, Bangladesh suffers from huge unemployment and disguised unemployment, which has been further worsening due to high population growth rate. Since the long past, rural informal income generating activities, such as traditional bamboo craftsmanship, however, has created enormous employment and income opportunities in the country especially for the rural poor and distress women. Empirical studies though recognize the contribution of rural informal activities to poverty alleviation, seldom focuses on who are the craftsmen, how they produce and market their products. Using primary data collected from more than 200 bamboo craftsmen from four districts in Bangladesh, this study tries to examine the role of rural informal activities and characterizes who are the craftsmen. The study finds that bamboo craftsmen are mostly uneducated and inherited the skills and businesses from their parents. The study also finds that all of the workers in the bamboo industry are family members and nearly 50 percent of total workers in the bamboo sector are female. Thus, the traditional bamboo sector contributes enormously to the creation of employment opportunities for the rural women. Finally, based on the opinions of the craftsmen, the study recommends some suggestions for the development of the bamboo industry in Bangladesh.
Key words: Industrial cluster, industrial development, craftsmanship, bamboo