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At Kilmora, Why We Do What We Do

Kilmora - A Social Enterprise based out of Kumaoni Himalayas

Living in the hills. Clean air. Glimpse of the Himalayas. Snowfall. Instagrammable locations. Winding roads that end in picturesque dead ends.

All these things come to mind when one thinks of life in the hills.
Of course, it is all this.

Monsoon sunsets

But it is also cloudbursts that take away large tracts of agricultural land. And unseasonal hailstorm that burns a standing crop of potatoes. Or heavy sleet that damages the fruits just as they are ripening, marring them and making them get a below-market price.

Devastation after the cloudburst in October 2021 at Talla Ramgarh

Most people in the hills are resigned to their fate. To the brightest of sunshine and the bleakest of snow days. And they probably would not trade it for a life in the city. Is it possible however for them to earn a dignified living while they continue to brave the vagaries of nature?

Of course, it is! This is the reason for which Kilmora was established and continues to operate.

A social enterprise based out of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, we focus on livelihood generation in a sustainable manner. Livelihoods that allow a woman working at the fruit unit to pay fees for her daughter to complete her Masters’ degree. For a woman to work with the knitting group and also operate a functional homestay at her place. For a weaver, to have a choice to be both a weaver and a farmer.

Women's Day festivities at Kilmora

Started 25 years back with a very simple objective, what has sustained us through tough times, is staying true to our core focus. Livelihood generation.

How does that translate to the work that Kilmora does?

All our product verticals keep the core focus of livelihood generation when approaching any product design or order.

For example, we recently received a query for a substantial order for annual supply of our jams and marmalade to some premium hotels across the country. They love our product (which was purchased by them for tasting and sampling). We passed all their tests and they wanted more. We were equally transparent with our minimal profit margin, as we were with our purchase price of fruit from the small farmers.

Do you hear a ‘but’ in this narrative? Yes, there is one.

BUT, they wanted our products at a cost which would have entailed us asking the small fruit farmer to lower his selling price. While we would love to increase our work, it will not be at the cost of the small farmer. And we have had to refuse the order.

Our commitment to our surroundings

Our products are also developed keeping in mind the fragile ecosystem we live in. Some of our culinary herbs are foraged from the forest floor and we have regular interactions with the women farmers who forage, clean, dry and then sell these natural herbs to us, sharing with them the dangers of over foraging and not leaving enough behind for the forest floor. Constant education and sharing are the only ways for all of us to remember and renew our respect for this ecologically sensitive location we reside in.

Pine needle packing for glass jars

New biodegradable packaging and Kraft paper labels

The sisterhood that is our knitting group

In the knitting vertical, we work with only hand knit products. These not only give the wearer a unique product not available with a machine-knit sweater, muffler or a pair of gloves; they also provide livelihoods to 300+ women in the area. Our knitting groups are an amazingly, resilient sisterhood that meet once a week. While they hand in their finished products when they meet, this is also an opportunity for the women to bond, exchange notes and support each other. Troubled new wives have been given sage advice by veterans and young mothers get tips from seniors. Loud laughter usually helps us locate a knitting group. As does the smell of food. Communal lunchtime with some women bringing just a little subzi and lots of rotis (as they can afford), is turned into a hearty meal with a lot of pickle from another dabba and subzi from a third.

Kilmora Knitters' Sisterhood

The people behind your hand-woven Kilmora products

In our weaving vertical, we have only handlooms which are operated again…by people. When you buy a shawl from Kilmora, you will also see a small sticker with the weaver’s name written in his/her own hand. Your product does not come from a faceless factory. The rhythm and music of a hand-operated loom and the sheer synchronicity needed, leaves one spellbound. And yet, the weavers do it effortlessly.

We could share so many stories of our daily lives. However, we would love to have our products do the talking. Be it our hand-woven products, hand-knit toys and accessories, natural herbs, grains, and spices, or our small-batch artisanal, slow-cooked jams and chutneys. The focus has always been on improving the quality of life here in the mountains. While ensuring that you get a quality product.

A woolen stole knitted by Rekha

Who benefits when you buy a quality product from Kilmora?

When you buy a Kilmora product, you are supporting the woman who found confidence when she operated a mixie for the first time. And the knitter who is supporting her husband through a medical crisis. You are reinstating faith in quality handmade products, and helping a weaver, knitter, and farmer earn a respectful, sustainable livelihood.

If you would like to check out some of our wonderful products, click here!

And if you have the time, we invite you to visit us in the mountains. Come to explore and buy quality handmade products. And stay back for the stories and food. We promise you a visit filled with memories. And of course, Instagrammable locations :)

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