IKTT (Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles), from SiemReap Cambodia
IKTT (Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles), from SiemReap Cambodia

Present from Forest


The photo on the left was taken at the beginning of the Project of Wisdom from the Forest (PWF) in August 2002 on its location, about 25 kilometers from the town of Siem Reap. As you may observe in the photo, the site was barren and trees had been cut down before they could even grow big enough for firewood. The road was not very different from an animal trail.

The photo on the right was recently taken, in June 2007, at the same place, five years later. If you compare the two photos, you will see that the trees have grown at least twice the size, turning the barren landscape into a grove. In that compound, there are trees growing as high as 5–6 meters.

In ten years it is likely to be a small forest. To accelerate the growth of the trees, we clear the weeds at ground level and remove things that prevent the trees from growing. We truly practice growing natural forest.

We have come to the point where our mission to restore traditional Cambodian textiles can not be accomplished without restoring the natural environment that supports the textile villages, more specifically without rehabilitating the forests. PWF's plan is to reforest where trees have been cut downed and create villages in which lives follow.

PWF project site currently had 23 hectares of land. Half of it, about 12 hectares, is used to nurture pre-exiting trees and to rehabilitate natural forest. The remaining 11 hectares of land is used for plantations of mulberry, cotton and indigo trees. It is also used to grow plants used for dyeing, as well as fruit trees and vegetables.

At the present time, there are about 35 families, with more than 200 people including children living in the PWF’s village. There is also a small schoolroom, and a grocery shop will soon be opened, which will be followed by the installation of wells for water and electricity supply. Solar panels were partly installed to generate electricity.

Through the PWF's natural forest rehabilitation project, IKTT began to realize how rich Cambodia’s natural dyeing in the past was. We learned from the villagers that there are plants that can be used to natural color dyes. Some trees we were previously unaware that these plants exist in the world of natural dyeing in Southeast Asia.

This illustrates for us the rich co-existence of the world of trees used to produce natural dyes and textiles. Moreover, in the distant past, before the sericulture industry came to be known, in Cambodian forests there were insects that reeled wild yellow yarns. Probably during those ancient times, clothes were woven using yarns taken from these cocoons.

The experiences of benefiting from this rich natural resource were passed on from generation to generation for hundreds and thousands of years. This is we can called wisdom from the forest. We want to pass this on to succeeding generations and revive it by planting mulberries; raising silkworms, making raw silk, and creating a forest for create natural dyes. And to dye the yarns, we must grow the trees and forest.

In the past, Cambodian villagers planted cottons and indigo trees by themselves to make beautiful natural fabrics without buying anything from outside. However, now this cycle has become rare. IKTT have tried to revive forests in the hope of restoring the village's ongoing livelihoods.

Fabrics are gifts from the forest and the proof of harmony between nature and humanity.

update : July 26, 2007 7:19 AM

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