As I finish school at three on a Friday, I decided to go on a jaunt afterwards and visit something nearby. I was investigating the possibilities and came across the crocodile farm, which advertises ‘crocodiles of various sizes and dispositions’. I found this intriguing because I’d been led to believe that all crocodiles were of the same disposition i.e. highly disposed to creep up on you, drown you and then eat you.
I was quite tempted to go – if only to see the friendly crocodile, the remorseful crocodile and the vegetarian crocodile – but it hadn’t been very well reviewed on Trip Advisor (perhaps the friendly, vegetarian crocodiles have all wasted away or been eaten by the remorseless, carnivorous ones), so I decided to go to the lotus farm instead.
After the usual ‘yes, I know where it is’, turning into ‘no, I don’t know where it is’, we eventually found it on the road out to Tonle Sap Lake. Despite the lack of rain this week compared to last week, the river has risen considerably.
This house needs its stilts today, after a long spell of being on dry land.
We also passed quite a few cricket traps beside the road.
Some local entrepreneur obviously trying to corner the local market in fried crickets.
The lotus farm was set up to provide work for local women, and to bring poverty and the luxury goods market one step closer together. Lotus fabric is soft, light and breathable – and it’s almost entirely wrinkle-free … excellent for someone like me suffering from ironphobia.
You can see the lotus fields from the window of the spinning room.
The stems are harvested by boat four times a day, and they pick one tonne a week.
Once the stems have been washed and had the thorns removed they are bundled up for the spinners to get to work on.
There’s a large room with about eight women sitting at long, low tables.
They take a handful of stems and cut around the edges, then pull them apart to extract the fibres.
They stick the fibres onto the table, and then repeat the process, sticking each set of fibres a little further along the table until they reach from one end to the other.
Once they have a full table’s length of fibres, they wet them and roll them to produce thread.
The thread is then coiled into a basket at the end of the table , all except a little bit which forms the beginning of the next section, and the next lot of fibres are stuck to it to make another length of thread.
Apparently the skill lies in joining the fibres so they make a regular, continuous thread with no imperfections, or it will break when it’s woven.
Each one of these ladies produces 250 metres of thread a day, and a jacket requires 1,200 metres, and will keep one spinner in work for two months, as it all has to be done by hand.
The weaver will then produce one metre of fabric a day, so it is a laborious process with a high price tag. They currently employ 30 people and aim to give work to 500 within 5 years, supporting women’s empowerment in Cambodia.
I did a bit of research and found a jacket on sale for $5,600, so while these women are now above the poverty threshold here thanks to their spinning, the gulf between them and those who buy the jackets still seems immeasurable.