We're Working to Save the Craft
The traditional Khmu bag, known today as Nature Bag, Earth’s Greenest Bag™ is endangered. The craft of making it rapidly is disappearing from large areas in Laos’ north.
A traditional bag can take days to make. But only a couple of hours, scissors, a needle and some thread are needed to make a bag from non-woven polypropylene . Markets in Northern Laos offer thousands of large bags made of that earth-damaging material. China, sometimes only an hour walk away, sends many products into Laos packed in these harmful bags. It's easier for the Khmu to use that cheaply-acquired material rather than Jungle Vine® to make a carry bag, even if it lasts only a few weeks rather than the few years of a Nature Bag.
In August 2012 Volunteer Sack spent 6 weeks tracking down villages in Bokeo and Luang Namtha provinces where the Khmu still can make the bag. If girls cannot learn the craft from their mother, it is unlikely they ever learn. Soon the craft could die.
Saving this ancient craft that dates back perhaps 5,000 years has become a primary goal of the Nature Bag Khmu/Lao Poverty Reduction Project. It is as important as sharing Earth’s Greenest Bag™ with our global community.
The trip was an adventure and lesson for Sack, whose family lives in a village similar to a Khmu village where his mother grows highland rice for family food and a little cash income. His father no longer can work because of lung damage caused by nicotine.
Currently serving as a “practice teacher” for 2 years without pay in a village an hour from Luang Prabang, Sack had experienced hard life there and in the remote village where he grew up. But hard life came in different forms while he prospected for bag-crafting skills during the rainy season school holiday.
Equally challenging but more exciting were his treks through mountain jungle to identify crafting villages needed to meet global demand for Earth’s Greenest Bag while saving the craft.
Remember, Earth Day April 22, 2013! Make a difference and show your support.
Images from Sack's Trip
Passengers push their bus up a slippery steep slope near Nalae in Luang Prabang Province Laos. The Namtha (River Tha) can be seen far below.
Having made it through the greasy mud into the District Center, Nalae, Sack finds these young Khmu boys eager and proud to show a Nature Bag made by their family.
That's Sack in Nalae talking with a local woman about bag crafting villages in nearby mountains. She knew where they were and how to contact them to help meet future global demand for Earth’s Greenest Bag™.
Bokeo Province villager uses 2 Nature Bags. The heavy load of corn looks like a pain in the neck, but she's been carrying Earth’s Greenest Bag™ via her forehead since she was a young girl.
Sack found these 4 women carrying a total of 5 bags in Luang Namtha city. Two are of non-woven polypropylene; 2 others are made from nylon cord. The traditional bag made of genuine Jungle Vine® is the darker of the 2 carried on the forehead of the woman on the far left.
The weather was dryer when Sack approached a Khmu village in Bokeo Province. He used a motorbike for his research during several days in Bokeo, which is fewer than 160 km (96 miles) from our global headquarters. Because of mountains, the bus ride between the 2 places takes from 14 to 20 hours.
Vivian H Ramirez
Nature Bag™ - Earth's Greenest Bag™ Reusable Bags