Ban Mae Lai Bamboo Curing Facility and Crafts Workshop

The Ban Mae Lai Bamboo Curing Facility & Crafts Workshop is a project funded via VWB by KUONI the international tour operator. It is being established in the now disused school building in the village of Ban Mae Lai.

It supplements the community’s award winning Pang Soong Nature Trails Project by providing an all important component for ecotourism ventures - a non-tourism revenue dependent alternative revenue stream.

The project is community owned, but managed by VWB and provides benefits to both the (public sector partner) the local community, and the (private sector partner.) The centre focuses on two different products and markets:

The traditional bamboo products – The villagers of Ban Mae Lai have a long history of working with bamboo producing goods for their own consumption and others – like baskets for carrying fermented tea – or bamboo strips for sale to buyers from outside the village. A part of the centre will be set aside to allow the villagers to continue this revenue stream, but with the assistance of more modern tools and machinery that will increase their productivity (from perhaps Baht 5.- to Baht 7.- per hour) and therefore creating additional profit without additional cost.

New era bamboo products – The introduction of a curing facility will allow us to extend the life of cut bamboo from around 2-3 years, to 20-30 years. Products can then be made from cured bamboo that justify a much higher level of craftsmanship – as they will last for so much longer. Our challenge AND YOURS is (a) to increase the skills of the villagers and (b) to assist them in designing, then making products (not souvenirs) that are in demand in the market, and the sales price of which will allow the village craftsmen to earn fair trade rates of Baht 25.- 50.- per hour for their labour.

VWB – Volunteers Without Borders – must provide volunteers and resources to help upgrade the skills level of the village craftsmen. Track of the Tiger T.R.D. must identify new market opportunities for cured and uncured bamboo products, and act as the buyer – at fair trade rates.

YOU can help villagers in supplementing traditional basket and mat making with higher revenue potential product production: wind chimes, light stands, knock down furniture etc. With better tools, curing facilities and guidance as to what the market wants, the villagers in the community who choose to work on this project could triple their hourly income with ease. Put your individual skills to good use.

Are you creative and good at design? Perhaps you can work with them – by using your knowledge of your home environment to identify a need and then draw/design a product to meet it.

Perhaps you are good with your hands – and with basic woodworking tools – and can teach them new techniques – or just work with them on the products they are making to meet orders whilst you are there – learning about bamboo and what it can be used for – as part of the creative process that may give you that Eureka moment.

Next era bamboo products – Bamboo is a base material for a number of new era products that are extremely important in terms of ensuring a sustainable future for our planet. Of perhaps greater importance is that as a renewable forest product it can and should be used to benefit the environment, and the people – generally the rural poor – who are closest to it, who would benefit most from it.

Bamboo can, when reduced to charcoal using the low oxygen / high heat process known as pyrolysis produce carbon in its various forms – from biochar (a soil improver) to activated charcoal) used in nanotechnology.

Main products: Soil improvers, Fertilisers, Composting, Carbon sequestration.
All vitally important in mitigating the effects of global warming and eliminating chemicals from the food chain.

By products – Free energy sources from the heat provided for: Drying, Process heating, Thermal processes, Firing existing furnaces, Steam generation, Electricity generation.

Track of the Tiger T.R.D. (Tourism Resources Development) and VWB – Volunteers Without Borders - share a common view that new era bamboo products can deliver huge benefits to mankind. They believe that if this sunrise industry in managed correctly by private sector (local tour operator) public sector (local community) alliances such as this one the benefits are potentially huge:

Financial – All partners have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Success is dependent on their mutual commitment and collaboration in achieving it.

Social – Establishing a really viable 2nd revenue (or primary revenue stream) good enough to provide the next generation with rewarding job opportunities at home, and helping to stem (and perhaps reverse) the flow of villagers to the slums of the capital.

Environmental – Bamboo is best grown wild in the forest and not in plantations – because when grown in the forest it provides a strong financial reason for ensuring communities protect (and do not allow) burning in the area.