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Commercialization process of natural indigo dye in Bangladesh

Indigo is a leguminous plant that can add nodule in the soil for nitrogen fixation. Indigo leaves are dropping and adding as green manure for the soil. Unfertile soil becoming fertile because of continuous indigo cultivation. Spent leaves after extraction is a good source of compost which decomposes quickly and turned into good organic matter. This compost is very good for kharif-2 season when vegetables start to cultivate in most of the areas in Rangpur and Nilphamari districts. Compost can also be preserved for potato and other field crops.

Figure 1: Leaf collection for indigo extraction. Courtesy: Collected

Indigo shibori dying is a fashionable and artistic design on the textile is known to western countries including Africa and Asia. Indigo dyeing has very good effects on Bangladeshi silk fabrics, Comilla’s khadi, hand oven and hand span fabrics for developing scarves, dress, shawl, home décor, RMG’s yarn, and products and hand-stitched quilts and other fashionable product ranges.

Indigo comes from a plant species indigofera tinctoria, which is also known as ‘true indigo’, native to the northwest of Bangladesh, the famous indigo producing region of Bengal. Nilphamari was renowned for “nil farming” by the British and Rangpur are the key areas where this superior indigo is grown. All the indigo used for dyeing purposes in this textile collection has been produced in Bangladesh and is of the highest quality, with the [1]indigotin content of Indigo.

Traditionally this plant has been cultivating by the farmers for the last two decades in most of the fellow and unfertile lands in Rangpur and Nilphamari only for the consumption of firewood/fuel. It was quite a mystery to every farmer before indigo extraction that this plant can be used as making a famous natural indigo dye color other than fuel.

[1] Indican- a content that responsible for blue dye available in indigo leaf which needs to converted to pigment.

Figure 2: Indigo dye collection from the Tank. Courtesy: Collected

However, in 2007 in Rangpur, the [1]author was then assigned by CARE Bangladesh to work on extraction which was turned into a commercialization process through Nijera Cottage and Village Industries (PVT) limited, a social enterprise-a project of CARE Bangladesh funded by Shree of DFID. It was a long journey to entail research on indigo extraction and production using comprehensive technologies. This action research has been brought out a new mileage in indigo extraction as commercial production in Bangladesh so far.

The initiative of the indigo commercialization process has greater scope to create numerous vocations and jobs creations for plant cultivators, harvesters, extraction manufacturers and dyers as well as [2]shibori and [3]khanta artisans in rural areas especially in northwest districts of Bangladesh. Each of these activities can add value and the actors are cross-connecting and collaborating with each other’s’ specialties, thereby creating a foundation for small and medium enterprises.

This initiative has a greater role to meet the government’s recent priorities for regional economic development as with a link to SDGs goal and objectives.

[1] Author-Apurba Deb Roy is a Indigo expert, worked for East Africa Trade and Investment Hub-USAID-Kenya, former Action Research Coordinator of CARE International, Bangladesh to work on village industries concept for last five years (2005-2010) study of indigo extraction and production with dyeing techniques for textile products of international standard. He is a PhD research fellow in Asia e University and university of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for enterprise management development concept. He is also trained from Textile Today-Bangladesh in 2020.

[2] Shibori is a Japanese Tai and dye method on textile fabrics innovated in ancient time in Japan.

[3] Kantha- is made of old/thin fabrics from sharee that women wear, traditionally hand stitched and quilted  by  rural women with various stitching effects and motives  in Bangladesh.

Figure 3: Different grades of Indigo cakes. Courtesy: Collected

The objectives for commercialization of indigo extraction and production are a) Create sustainable agro-based business opportunities through manufacturing indigo dye and indigo dyed products for textile in local and international markets.

  1. b) Develop an advanced technology-based extraction method that can derive natural dye-indigo production from indigofera tinctoria that is being grown in Rangpur and Nilphamari district.
  2. c) Generate an innovative idea that maximizes the optimum skills of local people to address poverty, unemployment and create a social enterprise development using natural resources.
  3. d) Establish village industries concept under a regional economic development approach.

In the Bangladesh market, indigo usages are very limited but increasing and only to some Local level organizations/companies (such as Probortona, Aranya craft, Arang, Kumudini and some others). All these organizations/companies are producing craft & craft-based products for which they have some sort of year-round demand for natural indigo dye powder for their dyeing process.

Figure 4: Income from the large-scale indigo cultivation and harvesting for commercial production in a social enterprise can ensure monetary benefits. Courtesy: Collected

Indigo-dyed home décor and fashion accessories are the new product for Bangladeshi markets under SME of a new entrepreneur. RMG buying house are also interested to work on Indigo dyeing materials, fabrics and yarn for their clients.

In International Markets; Indigo dye is very famous in terms of natural color and blue Jeans. Jeans fabric’s cotton is very feasible for indigo dye and a great demand all over the world. Other than Jeans, indigo-dyed products that have bigger demand in high-end markets especially in UK, USA, France, Australia and Japan.

Hermes-France, Miwa Handprints –Canada, Refushe-Kenya are also the potential buyer of Bangladeshi Indigo dyestuff and indigo dyed products (produced in Living Blue) since 2010. In 2008 & 2009, NCVI has sold indigo-dyed silk and cotton scarves, kantha, shawl and stole to the nature Bazar trade fair in New Delhi in which they earned BDT 1.7 million. In recent years Living blue has sold 1-ton indigo Dye to an international market.

Income from the large-scale indigo cultivation and harvesting for commercial production in a social enterprise can ensure monetary benefits that go to savings, insurance, medical expenses, old age pension, employment creation, education, homestead repairs and repaying debts, to ultimately exit the cycle of poverty.

NCVI- is one of the social enterprises is renowned for making indigo dye and dyed stuff produce in Bangladesh for the world market. Right now this enterprise has become a shareholding company of CARE Bangladesh as Living Blue.

However, most recently Super Enterprise Limited, a registered farm from Joint-stock company of Bangladesh government, has already been started to provide technical assistance to other interesting enterprises, organization, companies to setting up Indigo plant, dyeing facilities on shibori, home décor and textile design in East Africa and South East Asian countries. Very recently Super Enterprise has been started work with an international buyer for indigo.

If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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