COVID-19 Pandemic Recession and its Impact on the Khmu Artisans

Most of the artisans working with the Nature Bag Project invest their income in educating their children. The Khmu encourage their children to never forget their roots, but to not be afraid to look beyond their rural home for new opportunities. Many of these young people have excelled academically and moved from their villages to metropolitan areas to find work and attend universities. Before the pandemic, Laos had a booming tourism industry with plentiful jobs.

In typical Lao fashion, these young adults worked, continued their studies, and sent money home to help provide for their parents and siblings. In the great circle of the Khmu culture, their families used the monies to further improve life for the family, and provide educational opportunities for their younger children and grandchildren.

A Khmu artisan making a tote using JungleVine® Fiber

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry in Laos collapsed. Hotels, guest houses, and restaurants sit vacant, and have for nearly a year. Many of the young Khmu who moved away from their villages for work have been left without income. Today, it is once again Nature Bag income earned by their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers that is sustaining them in this time of need. In every village, we are seeing Nature Bag artisans using their income to help support their adult children who have been financially devastated by the economic collapse.

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the entire planet into what many consider the worst recession in history. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates that extreme poverty has gone up 7% worldwide since the novel coronavirus first made its appearance. Sadly, this rise in extreme poverty ends 20 years of progress in the opposite direction. The human truth behind this cold number is that 37 million more people are now living on less than $1.90 USD per day.

Thankfully, worldwide sales of Nature Bags and JungleVine® Eco-Friendly Products remain strong despite the recession. Shop owners throughout the world continue to place orders and inquire about new colors and styles. Imagine the joy a Khmu woman feels, knowing that the handicrafts she makes are still in demand, and that she can continue to earn income to help support her family.