Kohima: In the small town of Chiephobozou in Nagaland’s Kohima district — 26 km from the state capital — a green revolution of sorts is taking place. Led by Keduolhoukho Dominic Chadi, local residents are increasingly saying ‘no’ to plastic items and ‘yes’ to leaf-based products, thanks to efforts undertaken by the social worker’s NGO, Earth Friendly Generation (EFG).
The idea was to beat the widespread use of plastic products that are posing a big threat to the environment. Thus was born EFG, an eco-friendly organisation, on October 15, 2015. Within a year, five members came on board and it was registered as an NGO. But it was only in January this year that EFG started producing plates and cups made out of banana and vector leaves.
Speaking with EastMojo, EFG director Chadi said: “EFG is currently working on a project called ‘A Billion Hour’ under which we are promoting local entrepreneurs as well as using available natural resources to minimise the use of plastic. And we are happy that the Nagaland government is seriously taking up the issue of single-use plastics and has thought about a total ban on plastic use which will come into effect from June 17.”
‘A Billion Hours’ project has been working on environment protection by producing eco-friendly products such as plates and cups made out of banana and vector leaves, in collaboration with Naga Hub, another NGO founded by Chadi that deals in organic food products.
The particular leaves that this NGO uses for its products are vector leaves, Musa indiana and Musa nagalandiana for making plates, cups and packaging because of its good quality. Musa nagalandiana was named after the state of Nagaland, where it was discovered and is a rare species.
When asked about the idea of making plates and cups out of leaves, the 28-year-old youth replied, “Since there is hardly any NGO, particularly working in the field of environment protection, we felt the need to start this initiative. With this awareness, we decided to make it a reality and initiate the idea.”
Chadi wanted to pursue a course in journalism after his graduation, but failing to acquire admission, he decided to work in the field of environment protection. He then founded EFG, after which he completed his Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from NEISSR, Dimapur.
“EFG was initially challenging, but now we are enjoying the work as we are getting good response from the public. I have also come to a realisation that not everyone appreciates the good work we do, but there are some who encourage us although not physically but morally. This moral support helps helps us go further,” he said.
It also caters only to prepaid orders as Chadi pointed that most clients prefer the products fresh, although the leaves are better in quality when it is stored for longer duration and turns yellow.
Chadi further said that due to a small workforce, his family also assists him through the entire process, starting from collecting leaves, making plates and cups till late night to meeting the customers’ demand.
While there is no specific working hours, the entire process can take up to more than 12 hours depending on the orders. With all non-paid workers and volunteers, Chadi said there are 13 types of cards for volunteers whose contribution depends on the colour of cards provided to them and are rewarded with certificates. “For instance, one is a red card which is meant for risky volunteers during the time of emergencies like fire, earthquakes, etc. It is a six-month course with a volunteer certificate,” he added.
As EFG independently works without any governmental aid, Chadi said that besides criticism, financial constraint is another barrier. “Our own pocket money is used up during our work. As an organisation, people think that we are generating money from the masses but even our own pocket money is spent and the reality is otherwise.”
“We have to collect materials from the jungle, and during winters, things become more difficult as the leaves dry. There is also the problem in identifying the leaves to produce our work. [But] The biggest challenge is shortage of manpower,” he added.
Besides producing plates, cups and packaging materials, EFG has also tied up with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in organising campaigns, creating awareness programmes and addressing issues of organic farming.