Folkcharm Travels By Buraskorn Torut

Cotton Picking with Folkcharm


Story by Buraskorn Torut

November, 2020

Buraskorn Torut, PhD is a Lecturer of ASEAN Studies for Sustainable Development, Mahidol University

            This trip started as part of my student’s thesis, but ended with eye opening experience and  genuine inspiration. I contacted Passawee (founder of Folkcharm) if it’s possible for a group of my students (Masters students in ASEAN Studies for Sustainable Development Program at Mahidol University) to come along and observe the local communities that are associated with Folkcharm. Not only she allowed us to tag along, she provided us a wonderful journey beyond my expectation.
            On the first day of the trip, we visited Kokkabok Village, one of Folkcharm’s partner community, and learned the traditional cotton process from fluff to fabric. Here we had wonderful lunch cooked by aunties that processed cotton fabric for Folkcharm and conversed with active aging women who are passionate with their hobby that turned into income generating activity. My students learned how the women changed cotton to cloth through hand on experience from 1. Removing seeds from cotton 2. Beating cotton to fluff 3. Rolling cotton 4. Spinning cotton 5. Natural dyeing 6. Hand-weaving cotton. For me I learned how cotton process almost disappeared from the community but it was revived again when cotton fabrics are in demand and have increased in economic value. This in turn provides women in the community additional income other than their main agricultural occupation. Moreover, cotton weaving brought back knitted social intergenerational network within the community.
            Working on cotton turns into a way for the elders to pass on indigenous knowledge that is almost extinct to younger generations. Not only that, supplying cotton fabrics to Folkcharm motivated the community to pick up entrepreneur skills of supply chain marketing, and management. Last and important, I witnessed the happiness in one of the aunties’ eyes when she found her very own handmade clothing on her customer. The sense of pride and happiness when the weaver took picture with her customer washed away the long hours she spent in her perfecting her product. I can see that it income is only the supplement but the happiness of knowing that the outcome of their hard work is being appreciated is the essential.
            After we spent entire afternoon visiting aunties home and learn about their weaving process, we sadly have to bid them goodbye and visited our next learning spot at Khun Loei Community. Here we enjoyed local dinner with organic herbs cooked for us by wonderful Khun Loei weavers. At Khun Loei community, we learned about organic cotton and natural dye process. My students enjoyed the motored buckboard ride to the organic cotton farm where they had fun with cotton picking in a wonderful sunny cold breeze weather. The visit to the field taught my students the differences in the quality of organic and inorganic cottons. As for me I learned how organic cotton can be sustainable for the environment and health by talking with Jae Yor, another wonderful woman who got inspired by Folkcharm and currently an expert in natural dye for cotton cloths. She taught me how to grow variety of beans to improve soil quality without using chemicals and how to carefully selected cotton seeds for her next planting season in order to produce fruitful yield and natural color. She also told me how she appreciated natural dye for her health has significantly improve and how she is transferring local weaving tradition to the younger generation. To me, Jae Yor is a proven outcome on how young entrepreneur like Lukkaew can be the ignition to sustainable development especially for the rural community development.
            The last village was also the highlight of this trip. Folkcharm travel lead us to meet Grandma Rose, the “Radical Grandma Weavers’ local leader of Nanongbong Village. Not only can she weave but she is the main activist fighting for human rights against the gold mine in her community. The purpose of weaving is to fund for expenses of gold mine resistance. Grandma Rose shared her stories of struggle with the gold mine and the impact of the contaminated mine on the locals’ health and environment. Woven cotton from her community displayed hardship of fighting for their rights to health and basic needs.
            All three villages taught us immensely about organic cotton and how woven cotton fabrics from Folkcharm can created such vast impact on the local lives and sustainable development. The trip could end as that but Folkcharm travel took us to explore other sustainable development activities in Loei province. Lukkaew introduced us to Banana Family, a youth empowerment social enterprise in Phuhor district. My students enjoyed the beautiful view of the site and great food which of course made from bananas and products from local farmers. My students get to learn from the true young social entrepreneurs and how local enterprise can be sustainable in terms of business and social responsibilities.
            Aside from learning about social entrepreneur and sustainable development, we got to appreciate the beautiful view of Loei from morning hike to the top of the mountain, enjoyed the sunrise, savored fabulous local dishes in a picnic setting by the waterfall. This trip gave us an optimistic view in life especially in the year 2020! So thank you Folkcharm from the bottom of my heart for proving to us that sustainable development is not just theories in the textbooks, but it is a true actualization that have great impact for the rural community.

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