Chanderi, Maddhya Pradesh, is a small town of 30’000 inhabitants, home to slightly more than 3’650 looms, and of which 60 percent of the population depend on weaving. The sheerness of Chanderi’s handloom production was already mentioned by the local aristocracy as of the 11th century. Three fabrics made the local offer at the start of the 20th century: the 100 percent silk, using a particularly fine yarn of 13/15 or 16/18 deniers, the Chanderi cotton, finished with an onion extract, and a blend of the two fibers. It is at this time that the use of Zari for the motifs became popular, under the impulse of the royal family of Scindia. Motifs in coloured cotton yarn appeared during the century as well as new designs with geometrical shapes. A specificity of Chanderi is the needle weaving of the motifs on the loom, with one or more weft threads. This particularity as well as the sheerness of the local production resulted in Chanderi obtaining the Geographical Indication (GI) in 2005.

Three religious communities are present in Chanderi: Muslims, Hindus and Jains. The Muslims (Ansarees) constitute 34 percent of the cluster’s households. Brahmans and low caste Kolis total up respectively 10 and 13 percent of the households. The other castes active in the profession are the Khuswas, Mongias and Barars, and the Jains represent 12 percent of the households. The Ansaris have the best reputation among the weavers; they generally work more and consequently earn more, are more disciplined and invest their profits in the profession. 70 percent of the weavers in extreme poverty are nonetheless Muslim.

Likewise in Varanasi, silk originates from Indian and China - despite a climate favorable to sericulture, and Zari from Gujarat. Cotton comes mainly from South India, notably from Coimbatore, and also from Jaipur in Rajasthan. Chanderi product range diversified in the recent decades notably under the impulse of institutional interventions, it encompasses today sarees, and yardages for home decoration and for the clothing industry. New blends of yarns are also experimented. Lack of water is one of the clusters major issues, which has not been tackled up to today.

UNIDO ran a cluster development program in Chanderi from 2003 to 2006. At the arrival of the organization, the living and remuneration conditions of the weavers were similar to the ones prevailing in Varanasi, despite a relatively high performance of the cluster during the last decade, suggesting that profits remained in the hands of the traders, to the detriment of the weavers. The institutional intervention resulted in increased cooperation between the weavers and in the autonomous formation of a weavers association aiming at producing and marketing handloom products. The association today includes more than 150 members, their remuneration increased in average of 15 to 20 percent during the three years program, notably thanks to the regularization of their work, which previously encountered sensible seasonal variations. This positive achievement from a poverty alleviation perspective is nonetheless fragile, as it depends on one major buyer and the weavers’ capabilities are insufficient for satisfying the requirements of further growth and sustainable development. More support is needed, and JULAHA is among the services providers that today collaborate with the association, in order to enable its access to the knowledge necessary for its autonomy and viability.