Grass-paper making to push rural livelihood

Business, Normal

The National, Friday 25th November 2011

THE new paper-making technology using “kunai” grass by the City Pharmacy Group aims to boost livelihoods in rural communities, CPL group chairman Mahesh Patel yesterday said.
Speaking at the launch at the CPL headquarters, Gerehu in NCD, Patel said they were currently in the process of selecting villages to get involved in this paper-making business with focus on more women’s involvement.
Patel said the CPL group, whose core business was in retail, was looking at agriculture and ways in which they could assist rural communities to generate income that would greatly improve their lot.
With expert assistance from a Nepalese non-government organisation, Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources, seven locals from the Sisters of Charity of St Anne’s in Gerehu Stage 6, were engaged two months ago for training to use simple technology and turn “kunai” grass into paper.
The team turned out close to 300 sheets of paper per day of A2-sized pure (natural) or bleached (white) kunai paper, with 7,000 sheets produced so far.
“It is so simple and we are keeping it that way because we must not forget that rural people lack enterprise skills.
“This is just the start, and we can make so many things from this paper … it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
He said the involvement of villages in this initiative would be transparent so that when they receive their income from sales through any City Pharmacy outlet in Port Moresby, all the monies would go back to them.
“The paper will be sold at K3 a sheet, inclusive of GST.
“Tax is 30t and K2.70 will go back to whichever village made the paper.
“That way, CPL gets nothing back for the cost we put it.
“All the money will go back to the village where we will monitor and to ensure that all the monies are put into a fund so that the whole village benefits from it.
“This and other technical issues such as cost, production and location, are what we want to get right before we make our selections,” said Patel.
He said the total cost of this initiative from feasibility study to acquiring of staff and equipment to final product was roughly K50,000.
Patel said it would cost less than that to start up now and that equipment had to be as simple as possible for the average villager to operate and repair.
He said at the moment, the paper was plain coloured but opportunity awaits those creative-minded to spice it up with designs.
Patel said for CPL, the only involvement would be to provide the market and the necessary start-up equipment, and to monitor the progress and provide training.
This initiative is managed by Raj Shahi of CPL’s corporate social responsibility division.