Moolchand’s brother in law, Shyam Singh Maravi, is skilled at lantana furniture making and when Moolchand saw him making furniture from lantana, he decided to learn it. Moolchand Urveti is from Jungaliya Village of Niwas Block in Madhya Pradesh.
Now Lantana actually is an invasive, offensive weed, and has taken over vast tracts of lands in the hilly region of Western Himalaya. It has expanded wildly from lower altitude to higher areas upto 1800 m. above msl. The plant has become a serious threat to agriculture land and especially to ground flora in the forest. Though their presence is often justified as green cover, taking care of soil and water, by and large they are a growing menace against bio diversity, economic loss, and social disaster call for judicious attention. Weeds like Lantana, Parthenium and Eupatorium have caused havoc in terms of social and ecological losses. In many places villagers had to shift their hamlets because of severe infestation of Lantana. The problem with Lantana is that takes control of land immediately after invasion. Being deep rooted it becomes difficult to uproot it. As the plant is not utilized for any purpose, its enormous seed production and high survival rate further promote the species. Burning and cutting of the plant only encourages massive growth. It does not allow any species to grow along probably due to dense canopy structure and allopathic effect of the species. It harbours wild animals and animal grazing over the species end up getting poisoned.Interestingly, Lantana can be used for a variety of purposes: cheap furniture, utility articles, incense materials, mosquito repellent- from leaves, charcoal briquetting, power generation through gasification, etc.
Moolchand opted for furniture making. Cheap furniture made from Lantana sticks is quite popular and established now. The sticks of Lantana are durable and resistant against insects and pests. For making cheap furniture from the plant, its sticks are cut, spines are removed and different types of sticks are used in making different articles. A few specific tools have been designed for the purpose.
Shyam (yes, we are back to our story) used to make lantana furniture for a local NGO and he took Moolchand to Baitul for 15 days training. After coming back from Baitul, they started conducting training on furniture making for the local NGO. Soon they started their own business of furniture making from lantana. Moolchand was excited and helped by WOTRs Wasundhara Programme, he started his own business. He says “It was the great day for me when I started my own business. I never ever thought of doing so because of our poor financial situation. But due to regular SWC (Soil & Water Conservation) work by WOTR in Jungaliya and support from SHG I was able to get the required finance for my business”. Mamtabai, his wife, says “It was really great for me to join SHG as it really helped me to get help whenever it needed and now”.
Moolchand started by making chairs, center tables, pen stands, almirahs, trays, baskets, beds etc. Earlier they used to get orders from a local NGO and the whole kit was given by them to prepare furniture and Lantana was taken from the nearby forests. Their business also serves the local market and nearby villages. He sells these at various rates: Single Chair- Rs. 500-700, Two Seater Chair- Rs. 1200- 1500, Sofa- Rs.2500- 3000, Basket- Rs. 200-250, Pot, Tray- Rs. 100- 150.
As people are getting aware about his unique skill, his rate of getting orders is also increasing. Now as he has that vital skill of lantana furniture making, he eagerly wants to conduct trainings in WOTR supported villages and eagerly wants to support WOTR in knowledge sharing and in the same way increasing his market.