The broom that clears the dust off your floor may have once been part of the hills of Assam. Here’s an account of how the ‘phool jhadu’ makes its way into your home.
"By sweeping your home in the morning with grass brooms, you also wipe out negative thoughts and energies." So goes an Assamese proverb. Resting against the back of a door-frame, the broom you bought from a hawker comes all the way from Karbi Anglong district in Assam.
Broom grass (scientific name Thysanolaena maxima, Poaceae family) has emerged as the most widely cultivated cash crop in the hills of the Assamese district. Commonly known as Jharu, it is grown in the Jhum fallow by people of the Tiwa, Karbi and Khasi communities as a mixed crop for its inflorescences — groups or clusters of flowers — that are used for making brooms. It also provides fuel and fodder during the lean period every year. Broom grass is a unique gift, an eco-friendly product that brings us closer to nature at the start of each day.
Karbi Anglong is the largest producer of brooms in India and caters to lakhs of households in the country. Cultivation of broom grass is comparatively easy and requires only small financial inputs. It can be grown on marginal lands, wastelands and Jhum fallow. It grows well on a wide range of soils from sandy loam to clay loam. The planting can be done by seeds or rhizomes. The harvesting starts from February and continues till March end. About 90 per cent of the produce is sold during March and April. The rest is used by the farmers themselves.
Broom grass cultivation has the potential to generate local employment and can be used to enhance rural income. It constitutes a major source of income for Assamese families in the business. This year the villagers sold dried broom grass for Rs.40 per kg on average. Traders from the nearby State of Meghalaya come to the villages after the harvest season. From Meghalaya, the brooms are distributed across the country.