Villagers in the Phnom Kulen National park in northwestern Cambodia are tapping their creativity to earn more income for their families, as they work to establish a new handicraft enterprise in their area using a plant locally called as the Le Lor vine.
Le Lor vine (Lygodium conforme) is a climbing fern which grows abundantly in Phnom Kulen National Park. The vine grows mostly in the lower elevation areas, usually along the banks of streams. It is a fast-growing plant and is able to regenerate within six months after cutting.
Villagers previously were used to gathering Le Lor vines and selling them to traders at Preah Ang Thom, a local market at the foot of the Phnom Kulen Mountain. The traders would transport the raw vines to villages near Siem Reap City to be woven into various handicraft products, which would then be sold in souvenir shops in the city markets.
The Biodiversity-Based Products as an Economic Source for the Improvement of Livelihoods and Biodiversity Protection, or BBP Project, helped the Phnom Kulen villagers get more benefits out of their Le Lor vines by enabling them to make the handicraft products themselves, instead of merely supplying the raw material. This approach uses the principles of value chain development, which the BBP Project has also used to assist other communities living near or within ASEAN Heritage Parks in Lao PDR and Viet Nam.
Working with the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, the project established a group in the selected target village of Thmey village. The group, called the Kulen Angkor Voir Le Lor Group, was composed of 26 villagers from 26 households. Its members underwent various training programmes on designing and weaving Le Lor handicraft products.
Mrs. Sorn Tha, a member of the group, shared that her father used to weave fishing materials using Le Lor vines, but she herself did not learn how to weave. However, realising the attractiveness of handicraft products to customers of souvenir shops in local markets as well as in Siem Ream city markets, she welcomed the opportunity to gain handicraft making skills.
Mrs. Tha said that her family is engaged in farming, but she still has free time which she wants to use to earn more income. “I will use my handicraft weaving techniques and skills for making handicraft products from other types of vines as well as rattan." she said after the training.
The Angkor Handicraft Association, which provided the training programmes, also agreed to partner with the group as its main buyer, ensuring a reliable source of additional income to the group's 26 members.