Lokta paper factories make a comebackHandmade paper factories have made a comeback in Bajhang, creating economic opportunities for residents of the district located in the far western part of the country.
Handmade paper factories have made a comeback in Bajhang, creating economic opportunities for residents of the district located in the far western part of the country.
The traditional handmade paper called ‘Lokta’ is made from the bark of the lokta plant.
Such factories were abundant and thriving over a decade ago. But they slowly withered and ultimately pulled down their shutters due to lack of human resources, shortage of raw materials, high production cost and effects of Maoist conflict. These factories are now back in business and are creating jobs for locals.
According to Department of Small and Cottage Industries, six handmade paper factories have come into operation while four more factories are preparing to resume operation soon. These factories are located in Kailash, Gadraya, Dangtola, Rilu and Kalukheti. Bhakta Bahadur Singh, a resident of Jaya Prithvi Municipality-1 said, “We extract bark from 1500 to 2000 plants every day. After handmade paper firms began operating, it has been really easy to cover our daily expenses.” Many locals in the municipality extract lokta barks when they take their cattle for grazing.
Tilhari Khadka, a resident from the same municipality, said many women collect lokta bark to earn money for household expenses and school fees of their children. “Before, women had to look out for credit whenever male members were not home. But now, lokta collection helps cover household expenses and makes day-to-day life really easy,” she said. Malika Handmade Paper Factory, established 10 years before and shut for a long time, reopened in the municipality a year before.
Mangal Bahadur Khadka, owner of a handmade paper factory in Gadraya, said, “A large reserve of lokta bark are available in forests as lokta bark have not been collected on a wide scale for a long time. A diligent collector can amass 30-35 kg of lokta bark a day.” Pyari Lal Jethara, owner of Kalika Handmade Paper Factory in Dantokhola said, “The economic situation of many individuals is improving as handmade paper factories made a comeback after a long time. Even unemployed women are also earning as much as Rs700 a day by collecting lokta bark. He added, “Six people are working in my factory.”
Handmade paper factories purchase lokta bark priced in the range of Rs60 to Rs80 per kg. Such factories in Bajhang have produced up to Rs3.5 million worth of handmade paper per year in the last few years.
Six factories now produce about 6,000 sheets of handmade paper and account for Rs10.5 million flowing into the district each year. Generally, the paper is used for official and ceremonial purposes including publishing books, note copies, diaries, visiting cards and ID cards. Entrepreneurs said that their factories manufacture handmade papers of good quality and large weight. A collection of 200 sheets, which makes one ‘Kori’, sells from Rs2,500 to Rs5,000 in Kathmandu, depending upon the paper weight and quality.
Nepali handmade paper produced in Bajhang is highly coveted in many countries including Japan, South Korea and Germany. The lokta plant is currently found in 56 districts of the country. There are many species of the lokta plant, but only five are considered suitable for manufacturing lokta paper.