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History and Culture of the Khmu People

The Khmu, pronounced kəˈmu, people is a large minority ethnic groups that is spread across the central highlands of Asia including sections of Northern and Central Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Southwestern China. Throughout their range, they are recognized as a separate ethnic group with the exception of those living in China where they fall under the official designation of undistinguished ethnic peoples (rough translation from Chinese). They are known by various names including Khamu, Kemu, Khammu or Khơ Mú depending on the specific area where they live but as would be expected, share a common language with only slight variations in dialects being noted and generally recognizable customs across the entire region. Khmu Population Distribution As can...

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Preserving Laotian Culture, Empowering Women and Building Bridges of Hope

As most of us move through our daily lives; talking on our cell phones, driving around town, buying groceries in supermarkets and living in heated and air-conditioned comfort, it is easy for us to forget that there is an entire world of people out there that have little to no idea what many of these experiences are like. In the landlocked, Southeast Asian country of Laos, there are many people who would fall into this category. For the most part isolated from the rest of the world by the rugged mountain forest terrain that makes up their home, they still live life much as their ancestors have for the last 5000 years. Subsisting by growing their mountain rice sans mechanical...

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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...

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Crafter Pia's Daughter Helps Her Create Bags

  Each month, we post a different Nature Bag Crafter interview so our readers can see how beneficial the Nature Bag Khmu/Laos Poverty Reduction Project is and learn more about the Khmu crafters of the eco-friendly tote.   Ounkahm: How old are you? Pia: I am 48 years old. Ounkahm: How many children do you have Pia: I have 5 children. Ounkahm: How many in your family help you make Earth’s Greenest bag? Pia: Only two, myself and my oldest daughter. Ounkahm: What do you do with the finished bag? Pia: hmm… I sell, trade for clothes, blankets, bed sheets or anything that is needed for my family. Ounkahm: How long have you been creating Nature Bags? Pia: I have...

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