JungleBags® are made in the homes of hundreds of artisans in remote jungle villages. We will introduce you to some of them and add more artisans each time our Lao volunteers have the opportunity to submit additional interviews and profiles.
Nature Bags are becoming most famous for their beauty, handcrafted quality, and the fact that they are not only carbon neutral but carbon negative.
Produced from a fast-growing jungle vine (Islobata phaseloides) they would be considered a technological wonder of durability and flexibility if it weren't for the fact that they are an all natural product. More than that, though, they are the vehicle that can deliver the dreams of an impoverished people.
Unlike most businesses, Nature Bag was never actually about doing business. Our entire concept was built around the ideas of preserving the cultural heritage of the Khmu tribes of Northern Laos and providing them with the means of providing a better future for their people without having to sacrifice their identity as a people.
We could tell you all about these wonderful mountain tribes and how, for many, they still have to walk two days over mountain trails that would scare a Billy goat out of his lunch, just reach an area with electricity. We could tell you about the hard work that they endure every day to maintain a subsistence level of existence. We could tell you what being able to market their handcrafts means to them on an individual and village level.
It is better, though, that you hear it from the artisans themselves. That is the purpose of this page, to give you the chance to meet some of the hundreds of talented people who actually produce our products and learn what your purchases through the Nature Bag Khmu/Laos Poverty Reduction Project means to them.
This page will be updated as frequently as possible, so come back often. We know you will grow to love these wonderful people just as we have.
"I am Kheum. I am 39 years old and I have five children. I have been making bags since I was young. I am very glad to have somebody buying our handmade bags. I spend the money on things for my family and school supplies for my children. We have a better quality of living."
Artisan Pia – Providing For Her Family and Passing On Their Traditions
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 been making our organic totes since I was little.
Artisan Daeng – Providing For Her Children and Their Education
Ounkahm: How old are you?
Ounkahm: How long have you been making Nature Bags?
Daeng: I have been making bags for a few years now for trading of clothes for my 2 children and school supplies.
Ounkahm: How do you feel about the Nature Bag project?
Daeng: I love it! I hope the project lasts for a long time and people will buy our bags. The money helps and they are also good for trading.
Artisan Paeng – Bag Making is a Family Tradition
Sack: Please tell us a little about yourself.
Paeng: My name is Paeng. I am 28 years old. I am married and I have two children, a girl and a boy.
Sack: What does your family do for living?
Paeng: Well, actually, we are mountain rice farmers and for extra income we make Nature Bags.
Sack: How did you learn to make Nature Bags?
Paeng: My mother and my sisters taught me.
Sack: Do you enjoying making Nature Bags?
Paeng: Yes! Creating bags has become part of my daily routine. I've been making them for four or five years now.
As you can probably tell from these short interviews, English isn't a common language in Laos and, to be honest, very few Khmu speak any at all. What they do speak is the language of love. Love for their people, love for their families, love for their way of life and love for the heritage that now provides the means to a better future for themselves and more importantly for their children.
Creating Bags for Nature Bag provides these mothers with the hope that their children can have abundant food to eat, receive a quality education, and can look forward to a brighter tomorrow.
And, to think it all starts with a jungle vine.
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®.
The Khmu Artisans
The Nature Bag is homemade in Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia which has one of the lowest per person income levels in the world. The knowledge and skill used in its craftsmanship rest exclusively with the Khmu ethnic group, which has lived at high elevations on the mountainsides of Northern Laos for thousands of years.
Nature Bag Artisan Pia
- 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 been making our organic totes since I was little. There was a time when there was not much interest in buying the bag, so most of us make the bag with the nylon because the material is cheaper and we can do it faster.
- Ounkahm: I see, I think, making bag with nature material is great for the environment and you can preserve your old culture of making bag.
- Pia: I agree with that if there is someone wants our Nature Bag.
- Ounkahm: Well, we want them!
Nature Bag Artisan Khia
- How long have you been making the organic bags? I have been making bags for home use since I was 12. Since the Nature Bag project started I have been making bags for about 4 years now.
- How long normally it takes to finish one bag? Well, it depends. It takes at least 5-7 days to finish one bag.
- How do you feel about the Nature Bag project? I think it’s very good project because it helps us to reduce our family expenses. We can sell our bags or trade for clothes, blankets and my children’s school uniform. I hope the nature bag project keep buying our bag. (laugh)
Nature Bag Artisan Nai
- How old are you? 35
- Where do you live? Oudomxay Province, Laos
- How long have you been making the Nature Bag and who taught you? I have been making Nature Bags for seven years and my mother taught me.
- How did you use the Nature Bags before the Nature Bag Khmu/Lao Poverty Reduction Project? Before the project I made the bags for home use. In 2008 I started making Nature Bag to sell and the continued success of the Nature Bag project will keep me and my family happy and with an income.
Nature Bag Artisan Nai
- How old are you? 45 years old
- How many children do you have? I have 5 children
- How long have you been making organic Nature Bags? I have been creating bags for 10 years now.
- How did you learn how to make the bag? I learned from my Mother when I was very young
- Oh, you must have been crafting Earth’s Greenest Bag before the Nature Bag Khmu/Lao Poverty Reduction Project. Yes, I made JungleVine® bags for my family. It’s good that now I can make bags to sell and earn money for my family. I will create bags for others as long as our Project keeps selling them to people everywhere.
Nature Bag Artisan Chuay
- How old are you? I am 35 years old.
- How long have you been making Nature Bags? I have been making Nature Bags for 15 to 16 years.
- Do you have any children? Yes, I have three children, my youngest is still in school.
- How do you spend the money you receive from the sales of Nature Bags? I use the money for many things! Mainly for my son's school supplies and household items.
Nature Bag Artisan Vone
- How old are you? I am 30 years old.
- How long have you been making Nature Bags? I have been making Nature Bags since I was 14 years old but since 2007, I make the organic bags to sell to the Nature Bag Khmu/Poverty Reduction Project.
- What are your feelings toward the Nature Bag Project? I am happy for the project since the money received by the sales of our eco-friendly bags makes it possible for me to buy family necessities.
- Do you have any children? Yes, I have one son and two daughters.
- Are you teaching your daughters how to make Nature Bags? Of course! One of my daughters is already as skilled as I am in making the bags! I hope this project lasts a very long time so we can continue to make our green bags and sell them to everyone in the world!
Nature Bag Artisan Paeng
- How old are you? I am 28 years old.
- How many people are there in your family? There are 11 people in my family.
- Are you married and how many children do you have? Yes, I am married and have 2 children, a girl and a boy.
- What does your family do for living? Well, actually, we are mountain rice farmers and for extra income we make Nature Bags.
- Who taught you how to make Nature Bags? My mother and sisters.
- Do you enjoying doing it? Yeah! Creating bags have become part of my daily routine!
- How long have you been doing it? It’s been 4 or 5 years now.
Nature Bag Artisan Vinh
- How old are you? I am 28 years old.
- How long have you been making Nature Bags? I have been making bags for about 4-5 years.
- How did you learn to make the bags? My mother taught me.
- How many children do you have? I have 3 children, the oldest is 7 years old.
- Do you like making Nature Bags? Yes! I and very happy that I am given the opportunity to create the bags and share our tradition with the rest of the world.
Nature Bag Artisan Yeum
- How old are you? I am 48 years old
- How long have you been making bag? I have been making bag for a very long time.
- How many children have you got? I have 9 children, the oldest is 30 and youngest is 16 years old.
- What do you spend for when you sold your bags? I spend the money I earn from making Nature Bag on family expenses and to buy new clothes for special occasions.
Nature Bag Artisan Kheum
- How old are you? I am 39 years old.
- How long have you been making Nature Bags? I have been making bags since I was a child.
- How many children do you have? I have 5 children
- What do you do with with the money you receive from selling bags? I spend the money on my family and on my children's school supplies.
- How do you feel about the Nature Bag project? I am very glad to have somebody buying our handmade bags. We have a better quality of living because of it.
Nature Bag Artisan Vang
- How old are you? My parents died when I was very young so I am not sure about my age.
- Who took care of you as a child? I lived with my uncle and one of the villagers.
- Are you married? Yes, I have five children, three girls and two boys.
- How long have you been making Nature Bags? Since I was a child.
- What do you do for a living? I am a farmer.
- How much money have you made from selling bags? I’m not sure but I was able to buy a TV and a bike for my child.
- How many bags can you make in a month? I can make about twelve to fifteen bags a month if my children and my husband help me.
Nature Bag Artisan Pit
- How old are you? 39 years old.
- How did you learn to make Nature Bags? I watched some of the villagers make them and that was how I learned.
- How old were you when you learned how to make the bags? When I was 15 years old.
- How many bags can you make in a month? If my children or my husband help me, I can make five to eight bags in one month.
- What will you do with the money you get from selling the bags? I will use it for house expenses, buy my children some treats and save for a TV! *smile*
Nature Bag Artisan Kham
- How old are you? 48 years old
- How did you learn to make Nature Bags? My Mother, sister and friends.
- How many children do you have? Six children, three girls and three boys
- How old is the oldest one? My oldest is thirty and the youngest is twelve.
- How long have you been making Nature Bags? Since I was ten years old.
- What will you do with the money you get from selling the bags? I will buy some sticky rice, food from the market and clothes for my children.
- How many bags can you make in a month? I can make two to three bags a month but if we sold more I would make more!
Nature Bag Artisan Heun
- How many children do you have? 2 children, one girl and one boy
- How old are they? The oldest one is 27 and my youngest is 20.
- How did you learn to make Nature Bags? From my parent and one of the villagers.
- How long have you been making Nature Bags? Since I was 12 years old
- How old are you? 51
- What will you do with the money you get from selling bags? I will save some of the money I make and will also buy some food and send my boys to school.
Nature Bag Artisan Chom
- Age: 47
- How did you learn to make Nature Bags? I learnt from my parent, friends and have been making Nature Bags since I was 15 years old.
- How many children do you have? four children, three girls and one boy. All of my children are in school and the oldest will be attending high school this year.
- What will you do with the money you get from selling bags? Buy some food, school supplies for my children and some new clothes.
- How many bags do you make in a year? It depends on how many bags are purchased. If a large number of bags are bought, I will make a lot. Usually though I make about 20 bags a year.
The Khmu are the indigenous people of Northern Laos. Their rich culture dates back thousands of years. Some scholars believe it to be 5,000 years old, which would make it among the most enduring.
Some Khmu continue to live at a subsistence level, searching the forests for their basic needs — food, medicine and fiber for clothing and shelter to protect from environmental elements. Many have no monetary income.
Their bags offered to the world on this website have been crucial to their survival, allowing for the gathering of essentials for subsistence. Today, as it was thousands of years ago, the loss of a day’s harvest if a bag were to slip off a shoulder and fall from a steep mountainside could be critical. The availability of the Nature Bag worldwide is perfectly timed with the current urgency for sustainability in all lifestyles and combating global warming..
During the past 25 years, basic educational opportunities have been extended to most Khmu children. This has allowed many an option to leave the traditional villages and integrate into mainline Lao culture. Most of those who have left maintain strong ties to their families and continue to celebrate Khmu traditions. Those who remain prefer traditional life and to pass traditions on to their children.
Since 2004 many of those remote villages have been reached by electricity and mobile telephone service. Some have vehicular access for the first time. Opportunities for more efficient linkages between the ancient culture and the rest of the world have emerged.
Our poverty reduction, cultural preservation and environmental protection project is designed to strengthen and extend those links, giving the traditional a means to progress technologically and economically while remaining rooted in and preserving the ancient ways. Our mission can be summarized as being a means of strengthening in depth and economic power the inevitably evolving links between the Khmu and general society. We hope to enhance the empowerment of the Khmu as important participants in the rapidly progressing Laotian nation.