The small silk manufacture

Kim Nget, Kungkea and I sit on the ground and cut up and pound leaves. Fires blaze in two holes in the ground next to us, barks of various trees, leaves and fruits boil in the cauldrons above. We are dyeing silk. It is the second day that we try out all the dye plants and combinations with Mr Ny, Leak and Hiang. Banana, Lychee, Indigo, Mango, Prohut, Almond, ...all the plants we find that contain colour. Many neighbours have come to help, some children to watch. I feel a bit like in the Middle Ages, the smell of burning wood, smoke, steaming cauldrons. We sit on the floor and look at the work that has been done: the dyed silk dries on a wooden pole, the wood and leaves in the sun. Around me are the neighbours with their children - a community. The next day the work continues, in between the loom is delivered, made for us...

Kathrin Pelz, Bremen

Rovieng is an old Khmer word which means "alternative way".


On the journey to the small silk manufactory

Thousands of years ago, silk arrived in Cambodia from China and has always been firmly rooted in its culture and tradition. Under the terror of the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979, however, the practice of the latter was completely suppressed: in the darkest period in the history of the Cambodians, the knowledge of silk processing was largely destroyed. Most of the weavers were murdered - looms were used as firewood. Only a few survived the regime and with a lot of determination were able to keep the silk craft alive.

Today, the primary goal of self-sufficiency is always predominant in rural Cambodia. Thus, the main income of a household comes from cultivating their own rice and vegetable fields. For most women, silk handicrafts are the only way to earn a little extra money besides the hard work in the fields. There are now about 10,000 weavers in Cambodia. Two thirds of them live in Takeo province, where Sorya works. Most of them practise their craft, which is usually passed on from generation to generation, from home as they did back then.

The idea of setting up a silk manufactory is not new: numerous organisations have already dealt with this issue and put their plans into practice. However, we think that there is still room for improvement and that the weavers can derive more benefit from their work. For example, there is no adequate remuneration for the elaborately made products and the money is wasted in the hands of profit-oriented middlemen.

Sorya not only wants to counter this, but also to put the development of each individual in the centre of focus. Motivated women should be given the opportunity to live out their creativity and realise their own ideas. Their training and knowledge should eventually be sufficient to enable them to successfully continue the small silk manufactory on their own in the future.

Another challenge that the small silk factory will face is to make a name for itself in Europe, where the quality of the products can meet with a correspondingly strong purchasing power. The revenue is to go proportionately to the weavers and also to Sorya's development projects. Through the silk manufactory, we also want to support the development of rural infrastructure and the general democratisation process in Cambodia.

We hope that you will join us "on our journey to our small silk manufactory".