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The Killid Group
Traditional string beds: hanging by a threadWritten by Asadullah Bashar
Saturday, 11 June 2011 11:11
'Charpais' the traditional beds made from wood and coir rope are disappearing fast in the southern province of Khost and with it, the traditional economy revolving around the making and sale of these beds.
Made from local wood and coir, the beds have been traditionally used all over Afghanistan. Made in the village and bought in the village, the beds they provided a section of the villagers with an independent and steady source of income that was not subject to fluctuations of conflict determined by access to raw materials or markets which would depend on unstable road access. Now, as the situation in Khost demonstrates, this traditional material is being replaced by cheap imports from Pakistan. Beds made of metal frames and nylon rope are being sold in large quantities in the local markets, threatening to drive out the traditional charpais.
The fate of the fast disappearing coir beds is also symbolic of the larger threat to the Afghan economy where traditional hand-crafted items of daily use are beign replaced by cpeap imports. Afghanistan does not have the capacity to produce cheap good of daily consumption. It cannot, for example, make metal beds as there are no metal industries. Though it is rich in mineral ores, extraction is at a rudimentary stage and ores are usually exported out of the country as raw material in the absence of any secondary industry. The result is a rapid death of the traditional goods sector, that revolved around the agrarian economy which is still Afghanistan's primary source of sustenance.
Gul Rahman, a resident of Khost Province, likes ancient wooden beds because they are softer and lighter. The use of natural materials also makes them cooler and more comfortable to sleep on than the metal beds from Pakistan. Rahman also believes the traditional beds are stronger where the construction of the new metal beds is flimsier.
His opinion is shared by Ziarat Gul, a resident of Ghala Mandawi Area of Khost City, who also points to the advantage of the traditional beds which can be adapted to the need of the household. To lower the height of the bed, "the wooden legs can be sawed to the required height but this is not possible with the metal frames." Gul is also concerned about the disappearance of the traditional beds from the market and the repercussions on employment. "This is the robbery of our industry, now many youths and women are busy in this craft, but they are about to get unemployed."
Ghazi, a shopkeeper in Khost City, has a shop of coir items. mat "Before these handcrafts were used not only here in home but people used to export them to foreign countries for show. But the market is a bit down nowadays." Ghazi adds that he was selling at least 40 to 50 beds daily before, but the level has
However Mirwais, a shopkeeper who has a shop of metal beds in Khost, is doing brisk business. He points ot the advantage of metal beds which can be folded and easily transported unlike the traditional beds. "Another point is that metal beds can be used without mattress during sleeping." Also driving out the traditional coir beds from the market is the competitive pricing of the imports. One coir bed is almost 800 Afs and the price of metal bed is 1000 Afs.