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Artisan Organization: Thai Tribal Crafts

Country: Thailand

Traditionally, the tribal people in northern Thailand have supported their families through slash and burn agriculture, being forced to move their villages every few years searching for new and fertile fields. However, as the available space is limited, this semi-nomadic style is no longer feasible. On the other hand, based on ecological criteria, the Thai government is banning the timber cut down, trim, and hauling on the hillside lands. Thus, the hill tribes have explored new options for solving their economical needs while preserving their communal life, and the answer was found in their handicrafts. Luckily, this new activity has helped them to restore and revive traditions and expressions, which, otherwise, may have been lost forever.

Aiming to market such products, and improve the quality of life of the tribal people, in 1973 the Baptist Christian Service Foundation sponsored the creation of the "Thai Tribal Crafts," which is a grass-roots, non-profit and self-sustained agency, operating under the principles of promoting fair trade, preserving the traditional arts and crafts of tribal people, and providing advice and training for the producers, mainly in the areas of quality control and design. The goal is to make a profitable trading, ensuring a benefit for the artisan and his/her people, and the continuation of the project.

Today, thanks to the efforts of the Thai Tribal Crafts, hundreds of families are earning a supplementary income, improving their nutritional balance, education and medical care, having a lesser dependency on the agricultural activities."