Weaving is common throughout the Kingdom, especially in rural areas. Palm leaves are woven into everyday consumer products like baskets, boxes, trays or decorative products.
Fortunately, Cambodia has a lot of palm trees. People select the best leaves and then soften them in the sun until they are pliable enough to weave into their final shape.
People in Run Ta Ek commune of Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district are famous for the high quality of their palm sugar cakes. They have developed their weaving skills across several generations, and it now constitutes their secondary income, behind farming.
Run Ta Ek is known throughout the Kingdom for the beauty of its eco-village. The commune has implemented several principles of the Ministry of Environment. Among them is a commitment to reducing the use of plastic by using palm leave boxes to package their famous cakes.
Oeun Chantrea, a wholesaler who purchases the boxes from the people of the commune, said she buys around 250 boxes on most weekdays, and as many as 900 on weekends and holidays, when villagers have more time to weave them.
“A skilful weaver can earn from 10,000 to 15,000 riel a day by weaving these boxes. Those who are not as skilled make five or six thousand. It is not a lot, but it is enough to buy snacks for their children,” she said.
Throughout the day, the wo-men of the commune sit in front of their homes, chatting to each other as they make the boxes. As they complete each one, they add it to a bag, ready for the broker to collect them that evening.
Soth Chanthou is also a buyer of the handy boxes. She buys around 300 or 400 boxes every day.
“When they are used to pack palm sugar cakes or rice, they prevent them from spoiling for a few extra days. They also add a pleasant palm leave scent to the products they are used to package,” she said.
The environment ministry helps to promote the community’s weaved goods, both as a way to reduce plastic use and as a way to boost the income of the local people.
The ministry’s General Department of Local Communities encourages the development of local economies, by identifying new income sources for them, said Khieu Borin, director-general of the department, while presenting this year’s achievements and work review.
“The ministry also offers support to the communities to help them develop on their own, by means of introducing new seed and animal breed varieties. As well as promoting economic growth, this also improves food security,” he added.