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Did you know that in Asia, when you join your hands together to greet people, you’re actually mimicking the 

shape of a lotus bud? Lotus has long been a powerful and revered symbol in Cambodia and throughout Asia. This aquatic plant rises above murky waters, and gives rise to the most beautiful flowers. Varying in colors depending on the variety, the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is used in a variety of ways: as part of religious rituals, it symbolizes purity and rebirth; and it can also be used in culinary preparation.

But perhaps one of the most unusual features of the sacred flower is that it can be turned into fabric which preserves the many amazing properties of the flower itself. When broken and pulled apart, the stem (rhizome) of the flower reveals a fine and delicate fiber which, when juxtaposed to others, combines together to produce a continuous fiber which can then be woven into fabric.

IMG_0541This ancient craft was most likely practiced throughout Southeast Asia, but it has survived unaltered in Myanmar where the communities living on the floating villages of Lake Inlé have preserved it. Traditionally, this fabric would be dyed in bright orange and its use would be restricted to the highest ranking monks.

Today, this ancient craft helps Southeast Asia’s poorest communities make a living by producing eco-textiles for the world’s high-end fashion. By connecting the world’s poorest with the world’s wealthiest, the lotus flower is empowering villagers.

Samatoa (‘Fair’ in Khmer) founder Mr. Awen Delaval has revived this ancient craft in Cambodia, near the ancient temples of Angkor. Today, the Lotus Farm welcomes tourists from all over the world to learn about this incredible fiber, and how it can help entire communities move out of poverty. Learn more about Samatoa’s work in this interview:

In 2014, Community First and Samatoa will be joining forces to develop and study the virtues of the plant in its aquatic environment, and how it can provide an all-organic and natural water filtration system. Today, you can visit this ancient craft being revived in Siem Reap City at the Lotus Farm by Samatoa, check them out on Facebook!

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