Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Field Partner: Kiva expands to Thailand with Yellow Leaf Hammocks

Kiva is now working in Thailand! And we couldn't be more thrilled to launch in the country with brand new partner Yellow Leaf Hammocks.

What could be better than doing good while you nap? Now you can. Yellow Leaf Hammocks are not only beautiful, hand-woven masterpieces of relaxation, they also provide vital jobs and income for marginalized indigenous tribes in northern Thailand.

Known as the Mlabri, or the "Yellow Leaf" people, these tribes were traditionally hunter-gatherers. But slash-and-burn agriculture and logging in the region have made it impossible for them to sustain their way of life. 

With no rights to their land, knowledge of agriculture or traditional sources of income, the Mlabri are especially vulnerable to exploitation like human trafficking, child labor and indentured servitude. Too often, they are forced into working for neighboring tribes or toxic agribusinesses. Facing tremendous adversity -- including malnutrition and malaria -- the tribe has collapsed to only 300 people.

But things are getting better. In 2010, humanitarian Joe Demin and his family traveled to these villages and have helped Mlabri artisans create and market a trademark hammock weave that is not only durable but incredibly comfortable. Yellow Leaf Hammocks was born.

Now as the Chief Relaxation Officer of the company, Demin employs a number of weavers, providing safe, high-paying jobs that respect and preserve the local culture. Most importantly, Yellow Leaf Hammocks connects weavers with a global, high-value market via the internet so that they don't have to depend on tourist-season profits year-round. 

Before now, many weavers had to revert to destructive agricultural practices or seek work in other villages to cope with the slow seasons. By creating a large, worldwide distribution network, Yellow Leaf Hammocks is building sustainable demand for weavers' work. Now artisans from neighboring areas, including many Hmong are interested in weaving.

It's all paying off. Hammock weaving provides a 650% increase in income over slash-and-burn agriculture. And a weaver can earn in one week what an entire family can earn from a month of back-breaking field labor. Weavers can even earn as much as college-educated teachers in the area.

Mlabri tribe members with Demin in northern Thailand.

Mlabri kids enjoying some hammock time.

So where does Kiva come in?

Kiva lenders' funds will help weavers buy the raw materials they need to make their hammocks. On top of that, Kiva's zero-interest, flexible capital will enable Yellow Leaf Hammocks to expand its distribution network and boost global hammock sales. The more people who know about the company and its hammocks, the more it can sell, and the more weavers it can reach.

To date, Yellow Leaf Hammocks has identified 100 artisans who turn out beautiful hammocks, and advises them on production so they don't take on more than they can produce, or more than the company can sell. Work-life balance and worker happiness remain central values.

Interested in helping weavers improve and preserve their way of life? 

LEND TO A YELLOW LEAF HAMMOCKS WEAVER TODAY! (We apologize if there are no loans available, we knew this was going to be popular! But please stay tuned for more hammock loans soon!)

Have questions? Send them our way at

Images courtesy of Yellow Leaf Hammocks.