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Hemp Bangladesh

Located in the vast delta of southern Bangladesh, in a small village called Bagdha, not far from the city of Barishal (Bengali: বরিশাল ), our Fair Trade artisans have a successful and sustainable hemp production unit.

They produce beautiful hemp-based homewares and body products for the family and home.

Along a winding river in the village of Bagdha live the many families who produce our hemp products. For almost 30 years, starting in 1982, hemp has been used to produce a variety of products including twine, exfoliating mitts, soap savers, washcloths, scrubbies and hand-knotted shopping bags to name a few.

Apart from HEMP, the artisans produce many other products by using the "fibre of the gods" - JUTE. They also use a third fibre, HOGLA, which is more commonly known as seagrass.  These three natural fibres supports Bangladesh's economic base where you can derive income, by means of agriculture, product development, bringing to market consumer items and selling them world-wide.

A little bit about our hemp products.

The hemp is grown and harvested locally and the processed fibre is purchased from nearby markets. The artisans process the fibre by sorting, combing and spinning into "twine" balls, so the fibre can then be used to make our hemp products.

Sorting - the raw hemp fibre is purchased from the local market, stored and when needed sorted into bundles for combing.

Combing - this is the process where the fibres are thrown into a steel, pronged and brush like "comb" - which separates the fibres, removing the shorter threads, leaving the longer threads that suit the spinning process better - see picture above. Combing also removes bits and pieces of plant debris, making the product lush and ready to spin.

Spinning - By hands, the strands are carefully threaded together while a second person spins with a small spinning machine, the fibres are guided along a series of wooden poles which have slots, that are used to guide the threads. This twists the fibres into a twine and then into a ball, so it can be used as "twine balls" or to make other products.

Dyeing - The natural-coloured hemp twine can also be dyed, to provide different colours for the twine balls or other products. The twine is boiled in large vats that contain the dye, to achieve the desired colour.

Macrame, Crochet and Knitting - Using the balls of twine, the artisans make a variety of products using the skillful techniques of macrame, crochet and knitting.

Where does this all happen?

Our producers are located in the administrative region called Barishal - it is remote, rural and in the south of Bangladesh. The area is part of the Bengal delta and where the Padma (Ganges) and Jamuna (Brahmaputra) rivers are located. As a result the region can be prone to flooding, especially during the wet monsoonal season. River-side homes are built on stilts to cater for the rising tidal water of the rivers.

This Fair Trade project started back in 1982 as a way to assist with local employment opportunities for women. Obtaining work was very limited, if non-existent, in the local village.

The "village" are generational family groups, relatives and associates who help each other, as well as Fair Go, to make our hemp products. The Fair Trade group have permanent and seasonal workers which now number over 200.  Artisans now have security with regular earnings and this contributes to their family income.

The journey to the village is long by car. It takes about 8 hours by car from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh - including taking a ferry across the Padma / Ganges river to arrive at the production unit. Though it is only 240km - the congested traffic, lack of road infrastructure and slow travelling speeds makes the journey long, with lots of stops and starts. It requires a steady driver and lots of patience for all.

We connected with this producer group through our network of Fair Trade colleagues including our friends who are members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).  We have made several visits to our artsians to take a look at their workplace, meet the workers to discuss product development and to discuss arrangements with management. We have been working with their umbrella organization for about 12 years.  We did a follow up visit in 2020 to work on product development and to visit new producer groups.

Our hemp producer group who hosted our stay gave us a great outline of their work, how they trade and what capacity they have to meet our goals of supplying hemp products to the Australian market.

The finished products are trucked up to a distribution office in Dhaka, packed in a shipping container, then transported by the high seas to the port of Fremantle.  The container is then delivered to our warehouse in Morley, Perth, Western Australia.

Interesting fact: Bangladesh has the 10th largest population in the World - 163 million in 2019.

Interesting fact:The Bengal Delta covers a large area of the Bengal Basin, which occupies about 35% of the total area of Bangladesh.

Images and videos can be found on our Flickr website. You are welcome to use these resources.  Please use appropriate attribution to Fair Go Trading if you are not a client of ours.