At From The Source we’ve been steadily increasing the amount of cotton products we source from Laos, in particular handwoven, naturally dyed fabric that’s produced in rural areas. We love these cotton products, and now stock cotton scarves for men and women in a range of beautiful natural colours that have a lovely handmade feel. They are truly original scarves that look great on, and also have a fantastic story as making them is offering new opportunties for women in Laos and providing sustainable rural development.
Laos is a predominately rural country with many people solely reliant on farming for an income. Many people grow up with very limited access to education, and have few employment opportunties. This is particularly true for women as it is generally men who are resposible for family income. It is very common for women to be taught weaving and textile production skills by their mothers, and as well as weaving their own skirts rural women sometimes sell textiles to the local market for extra income. There are great traditions of raising cotton and silk on small scale farms, and using locally available plants to produce natural dyes. However, some agricultural development in Laos is threatening this small scale farming and local biodiversity, as commercial crops such as corn and rubber are being promoted as a way to generate more income from farming. This is completely changing local agriculture patterns and livelihoods, and threatening to wipe out many of the raw materials for Lao handicrafts. In some areas our craft suppliers are finding it increasingly difficult to find villages that are raising silk and growing cotton, and instead finding evidence that the new industrial crops are causing environmental problems like landslides and flashfloods because of clear cutting and the use of tractors to plough hillsides.
By increasing the demand for Lao handicrafts and textiles, there will be more opportunity to earn an income in rural Laos, especially for women. The traditional crafts of weaving and natural dyes can be encouraged, and the negative impacts of the introduction of large scale commercial crops in Laos may be limited, and local biodiversity and small scale farming methods preserved. Read some of the personal stories of people who are benefitting from rural employment in textile production, and learn more about one of our fantastic suppliers in Laos in this article published in Laos’ English language newspaper The Vientiane Times:
We encourage organic farming practices and are working towards organic certification for cotton products from Laos. By supporting small scale farming, traditional weaving and natural dyes our fair trade scarves are making a real difference to the lives of people in Laos. However, none of this is possible unless we can continue to offer fantastic scarf designs that people will love to wear. Check out our current ranges online: