Doi Tung’s textile factory was set up in 1993 with seven women weavers. This was a breaking new ground for the Doi Tung Development Project which was comprised, since its inception, of mostly male development volunteers who worked in farming, orchards and reforestation.
Before the DTDP was initiated, the local ethnic groups – the Lu, Shan, Lua and Chinese – lived a traditional lifestyle where the women stayed home and the men went out to work as farmers and foragers. At home, the women would weave their own textiles to make clothes. Most houses had a hand loom. Any surplus textiles would be sold to merchants who came to the villages. The women, therefore, possessed weaving and embroidery skills, although they lacked equipment and bargaining power.
This new textile factory provided the necessary link between the villagers and the market. It allowed villagers to put their skills to good use and earn a fair price for their work. Workers ranged from young to old; the older ones spun the yarn, those in the mid-range age group would work the looms, while the younger ones helped to design, sew or handle quality control. Each age group had the opportunity to earn an income without having to depend on other family members. Although spinning our own yarn made the price higher than buying yarn from elsewhere, the objective of the DTDP was to develop human resources along with a sustainable economy.
The standard of the textile factory was raised even further with the partnership with IKEA which began in 2007. IKEA’s team provided training and quality control for every step of the process to ensure it met international standards. This also raised the profile of Doi Tung’s handicraft projects in the international market, with products ranging from ceramics, table cloths, cushion covers and coasters, with every step being made by hand.
Today the textile factory has 125 workers, and continues to be a sustainable social enterprise that allows the community to stand on its own feet.