Maybank Builds Home for Lao Silk Weavers


Sounds of suppressed laughter are audible in a small farm called Mulberries in Xiangkhoung, Laos, where a group of women, under the eye of a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, huddle over a boiling cauldron of natural dye.

The bashful ladies are endearing, but so is Kommaly Chantavong, despite her matronly demeanor giving out instructions in a firm but kind voice as she ushers a group of visitors from Maybank Foundation to explore the farm.

Kommaly is a testament to the women at the organic silk farm that has helped revive and preserve the Laotian art of silk fibre production in addition to providing a sustainable income to impoverished families.

Her story began in 1976, when she gathered 10 internally displaced poor women weavers from her home in Hua Phan province to fund the Phontong Handicraft Cooperative before setting up Lao Sericulture Co Ltd (Mulberries) farm in 1993.

The farm was set up as a research and model silk farm. Today, the cooperative has grown to 3,000 farmers, weavers and artisans from more than 200 villages.

“Each member of the cooperative is involved in the end-to-end production that involves silk worm rearing, white and gold silk thread production, organic dyeing of the threads, weaving, as well as mulberry by-products including soaps, shampoos and creams,” she said.

Kommaly, who is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, said nothing goes to waste on the farm and they spend many hours researching natural dyes made from various plants to bring out colourful hues for the silk threads.

But having a big workforce comprising staff from remote villages is a challenge in itself, especially since some of the trainees walk more than two days to reach the farm located in Xiangkhoung, 386km away from the capital Vientiane.

Source: Star Media Group

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