On the way to the silk farm

Kin Nget, Kungkea and I are sitting on the ground cutting and crushing leaves. Fire is burning in two holes in the earth heating the water of the pot that contains different sorts of bark, leaves and fruits. We are dying silk. It is the second day we are spending together with Mr. Ny and his wife Leak experimenting with different things in order to receive a range of beautiful colours. Bananas, lychee, indigo, prohut, almond – we use all plants we can find and that we can extract a colour from. Many neighbours gathered to help – children come to observe this exciting process. The scent of burning wood, smoke and steamy pots – the situation reminds me a little bit of the Middle Ages.  We sit on the ground and look at our accomplishment. The dyed silk dries on a wooden stick whereas the wood and leaves dry in the sun.  Neighbours surround me with their kids and I realise being part of one community. The next day the same procedure – in the meantime the new loom is being delivered – the whole village is with us…

Kathrin Pelz, Berlin

Thousands of years ago silk from Cina has arrived in Cambodia. Ever since it has become an integral part of the Cambodian culture and tradition.

However, under the totalitarian regime of the Khmer Rouge between 1975-1979 all tradition and cultural freedom was completely suppressed. In the darkest period of Cambodian history the majority of weavers was murdered, looms served as firewood and the art of silk weaving almost vanished entirely. Only a handful of weavers have survived the war and only with great willpower managed to sustain and rebuild the craft.

Today subsistence farming is what predominates rural Cambodia. Hence, cultivating ones rice and vegetable fields creates the main income of a household. For the majority of women silk craft is the only way to earn a little extra money beside the hard work in the fields. Meanwhile there are approximately 10.000 weavers throughout Cambodia. Two third of them live in Takeo, the province South of Phnom Penh where Sorya operates. The art of silk weaving is, in most cases, passed on from generation to generation. Most of the weavers carry out their work at home.
Soya’s idea to create a silk manufacture is nothing new: Numerous organisations have already been dealing with this kind of project and realised their plans. However, we believe that there still is room to improve. In this regard, weavers could benefit from their craft to a higher extent by receiving more adequate and fair wages. At present most of the money for the laboriously made silk products goes to profit oriented middlemen.

The aim of this project is not only to counteract the just mentioned problem, but also to support the development and further education of each individual. Motivated women shall get the opportunity to live out their creativity and realise own ideas. Their training and knowledge shall reach to the point where they can successfully manage the project under their own steam.

A further challenge that Sorya wants to face is the attempt to establish a brand in Europe, where the quality of the products can meet the appropriate purchasing power. The revenues shall be proportionally allocated to weavers and other Sorya development projects. With the help of the silk manufacture we would also like to support the development of the rural infrastructure, as well as the general process of democratisation.

We hope that you will join us on the path of the little silk manufacture.