The Village Weavers Project is a series of initiatives that create economic opportunities for artisans in rural locations around the country. We help develop ranges of handicrafts that combine craftsmanship and tradition with artistic creativity and market knowledge. Our team of weavers, dyers, designers and tailors transfer their skills to aid artisans to make a better living from handicrafts. Currently this work takes place in 15 provinces, with 17 different ethnic groups. Combining a passion for these deep-rooted cultures and the handmade traditions with our business savvy, we are able to create thriving village enterprises. In most cases we work with a government or NGO partner.
The majority of textile artisans are women for whom textile production is only one aspect of their daily life and income. Supporting the businesses of women has been found to have significant benefits for their families and communities thus contributing to sustainable development and reducing poverty.
There are limited income generating opportunities in rural areas. Strengthening the textile production businesses provides rural people with the opportunity to earn an income while remaining in their community. This means that the income also stays in the village, empowering the community through economic development.
Textile production is a “value added” product, meaning that it combines raw materials with skilled labour to produce the final product. This type of product provides a much better financial return for the community than simply selling the raw materials. By performing the value added or skilled labour aspect of the product within the village, it strengthens the industry and income for the community.
Textile production in Laos has strong cultural significance. Much of the technical and esoteric knowledge is passed from generation to generation within the village and often has a distinct character from group to group. This means that there is a strong geographical link to preserving the cultural integrity of Lao textiles.
We decide which villages to work with in a few different ways. Sometimes we meet the villages when they come to Luang Prabang to sell their products. These groups either request to work with us or we choose to work with them because we are impressed with their weaving techniques and traditions. We also find partner villages through the Public Private Partnership development mode, where we partner with NGOs or government organisations that are working on poverty reduction missions. If they decide that one way to reduce poverty in the community is to develop the handicrafts business, they ask to partner with us.
Once we select a village partner, we start our work by doing a value chain analysis of the artisan industry. We analyse each step of value chain from the raw materials, to the product development, to the production process, quality control, and market access. Through our analysis, we determine which areas of the value chain are weak or broken. Then we discuss our findings with the village and propose a training programme to address these areas. If the village is keen to participate, then we begin to collaborate with the community.