Published: 08th October 2020
Collectibles gone wild: How PashooPakshee skills forest communities to make responsible souvenirs just for you!
From elegant bird figurines to khadi soft toys, you will find several handmade products on the portal of PashooPakshee. This is how the portal came to be and how they do their good work
Keychains, caps, T-shirts or mugs — which clichéd souvenir have you picked up while travelling? It's okay, you can admit it. We are all birds of the same feather when it comes to this. So was Savini Sonavaria. Until she realised otherwise and started PashooPakshee in June 2016. Today, this initiative that offers responsible memorabilia and collectibles also has an e-commerce portal that receives as many as 60 orders a month!
Figurine of a bar-headed goose | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
You see, the idea of PashooPakshee came to Savini when she was thinking about the piles of mugs and T-shirts she accumulated from her travels, especially to national parks. "The communities who live inside the conservation areas and depend on the forest for their food and livelihood are sometimes asked to move out because the area is declared as a conservation zone. They have to find alternate employment like manual labour, constructing roads or dams and so on. But they need to feel connected with tourism and feel that it benefits them too. In this way, they will be even stronger protectors of forests, instead of being in the crosshairs of it all," reasons the 34-year-old. The idea was to engage these communities.
Savini with a curtain holder with the motif of The Great Hornbill | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
Let's shake hands
Thus, Savini went on to find partners like Conservation Wildlands Trust and The Corbett Foundation who would help her connect with communities living in the fringes of forests or national parks so that she could skill them in making responsible souvenirs and eventually find a market for the products at eco-lodges, forest department stores and so on. "Since the not-for-profits already work with communities, they are aware of the community dynamics. And in turn, the communities trust them. That’s why we decided to work with them," shares the Mumbaikar. One of the first communities they worked with used to collect mahua flowers near the Pench National Park area in Maharashtra and who would regularly cross trails with tigers and leopards. With the help of Conservation Wildlands Trust, they were trained to make several souvenirs. And that's how it all started.
Women from the Kamreeth Silai Centre at Pench Tigre Reserve | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
But what are these souvenirs that we have been raving about since the beginning? Everything, literally! From block-printing kits to bags and cute little bag charms, from the most adorable bird figurines like that of pretty pink flamingos and to pearly white egrets. Wait, we are not done yet! There are khadi soft toys of the elegant Sarus cranes to fierce-looking Ladakhi yaks. Yes, yes, you will find regular products like T-shirts, bags, scarves as well, along with lapel pins, jewellery and so much more. Now that's what we call an inventory. It's this variety that's the reason behind their skyrocketing sales online from five orders a month they have climbed to 60 plus!
Skilling women and girls | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
Stepping up to the challenge
Savini, who has a Master's in Engineering from BITS, Pilani, tells us about one of the first communities they started working with who reside in the Pench National Park that falls in Maharashtra. "We eventually decided to challenge them with one of our toughest products, khadi soft toys. The women of the community really took it up as a challenge and today, contribute wonderful products to our brand," she says. Currently, PashooPakshee is working with six communities including two from Pench National Park, one in Kanha Tiger Reserve, marginalised slums of Thane, the fishing tribe Koli in Mumbai and even some specialised communities of Rajasthan and a few solo artists as well. What's more? The annual family income of these communities was `40 to 50,000 and now, after their intervention, their family income has increased by 30 per cent.
Making of a figurine | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
PashooPakshee retails out of several eco lodges, forest guest houses, forest department stores at Jim Corbett National Park, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary and Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. And as far as their e-portal goes, since this month they have started listing products of other communities too. For instance, Last Wilderness Foundation retails Baiga jewellery through their portal. In this way, PashooPakshee is indeed growing from strength to strength. "The fact that travellers have become more conscious of what they purchase has really helped our cause," adds Savini and concludes.
Some of their products
Khadi soft toys | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
Bags | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
Coasters | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
Scarves | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
Sloth bear dust buffs | (Pic: PashooPakshee)
For more on them, check out pashoopakshee.com