The Saray water hyacinth weaving cooperative started in 2004 with a small group of 16 women. Since then both the group and the range of products they produce have grown. There are now 40 women in Prek Toal and eight in Pech Kantiel who produce a wide range of home furnishings and personal accessories for sale from the Saray platform in Prek Toal, or from selected outlets in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Recently. Osmose has secured sales for Saray products as far away as Europe and the United States. On average, women earn $40 to $50 per month. Some of them, who wish to be more involved in the project, earn up to $100 and one woman in February 2010 was able to earn $200.
The market is capable of developing very fast. The cooperative in Prek Toal is no longer sufficient to meet this market. On several occasions in 2009, and in the first months of 2010, the cooperative had to delay orders because the women were so busy. Several shops in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh applied to sell Saray products, but so far the cooperative has not been able to answer positively because they could not create enough products.
The marketability of their products assures us that the potential of this programme to be replicated and reach out to poor and vulnerable women to give them the economic support that they need to lift themselves and their families out of poverty is significant.
The programme has been expanded to the small and very poor village of Pech Kantiel: eight women have received the initial ten days training and have already started to produce and sell high quality mats and bags. The capacity building will be continuing with the second 10 days training and a monthly follow up.
The community of Kbal Taol asked to be involved in the programme as well. A group of 25 women demonstrated a very high motivation to be trained and the commune council has proposed to lend them the community platform to work on. This sign of support from the local authorities is very important.
As there is no tourism in Kbal Taol, the products produced by the women of this village are sold in Siem Reap. In order to support sales and allow tourists to understand the nature of the work, a workshop was built adjacent to the Osmose office. A small group of six women were trained in Siem Reap. The experience in Prek Toal showed that sales are much higher when customers can witness the creative process behind the products they buy.