Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lawa young man at La Oob village

The Lawa live in villages in two provinces of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, and have a population of about 16,000 people. They traditionally supported their families by engaging in slash-and-burn agriculture, but now need other sources of income, as the old way of agriculture is no longer possible.

Thai Tribal Craft has been working with the Lawa people from Ban La Oob since 1996. This village is about 250 kilometers west of Chiang Mai, located in Mae La Noi district of Mae Hong Son province. They make beautiful silver products and black hand-woven cloth with tie-dye designs. There are 12 producers of silver earrings, bracelets and necklaces, and 20 weavers who weave black cloth with tie-dye designs from which TTC makes a number of products, such as vests, purses, small accessories, travel bags etc….

Nowadays, many young tribal people leave their villages to go to the city, seeking jobs and a better income. Some of them stay in the city after they graduate, hoping to earn money to spend on an easier lifestyle than the one they have in their villages. This is happening to many young people in La Oob village.

Narongchai Pratheeppoj, 25 years old, is a young Lawa man from Ban La Oob who decided to take over the role that his father, Khampan Pratheeppoj, now holds as a representative of the La Oob silver producer group. After Narongchai finished high school, he decided to stay in the village and work as a silversmith with the La Oob silver producer group founded by his father. “I would like to preserve our traditional silver work by teaching this skill to the generations to come. I want to create an income opportunity for the villagers here so that they do not need to move into the city,” said Narongchai. As agriculture is the main income for the people in the village, Narongchai is also working on growing rice, cabbage, corn, and coffee for their own consumption and working on the silver jewelry production when the group has orders or when they have free time. “I can use the money that I earn from making jewelry and invest it in my agricultural work by buying organic fertilizer, seeds, etc. Working on silver handicrafts is very important to us because it helps our cash flow and we do not need to borrow money from the financial agency at a high interest rate,” said Narongchai.

Narongchai is now assuming his father’s role by being a representative of the group. He comes to the Thai Tribal Crafts head office to pick up orders, collect payments and to make contact with several shops in Chiang Mai. He also leads the group in participation in the OTOP fair organized by the Thai Government.

With the advice and cooperation of Thai Tribal Crafts, the group lead by Narongchai has established an eco-tourism and home-stay program in the village. The aims are to promote their beautiful silver work, explore the real life story of the artisans behind the Lawa silver products, and provide extra income to the families of the group. Thai Tribal Crafts Fair Trade also develops Eco Fair Trade Tour programs for those who love Fair Trade.

La Oob Village

As travellers are welcomed into the La Oob community with dignity and respect in the context of a family atmosphere, and have the opportunity to try on the silver products, the group hopes that many will gain a better understanding of the impact that Fair Trade has made in La Oob village and leave with special memories of their time there.

In all Narongchai’s efforts, he is trying to create more income opportunities for the group and lift up the living standards of the La Oob villagers.

1 comment:

  1. Great to see this as we were part of the New Zealand Trade aid group that sated with these wonderful people in march 2011.
    The photos we took of Narongchai and Roger are on Face book.
    Keep up the good work, we support you all in fair trade.