HISTORY AND ACHIEVEMENTS:
Beginning in 2003, these weavers and Kyley Schmidt [Peace Corps 2003-2005] worked together to found the Solidarity Cooperative, with the goal of providing new sustainable income for the weavers. But since then our work has done so much more...
Preserve a dying cultural artform-In 2003, weaving in Soatanana (which means “Good Town”) was practically non-existent. The weavers had lost their local market in the 1970’s after synthetic cloth from India and China became available as a cheaper substitute for their silk. Their silk was traditionally used in the countryside as burial shrouds. The grandmothers knew how to weave but had stopped weaving because they had no market. Then the Solidarity Cooperative was born which opened up the weavers to a new, international market.
There is a long history of wild silk in Madagascar. It is called Lamba Landy meaning “Silk Cloth” or Lamba Mena meaning “Red Cloth”. The cloth doesn’t have to be red however. Red is a color of power in Madagascar. Calling the silk Lamba Mena represents how the silk is a cultural symbol of power.
Traditionally, the kings and queens of Madagascar wore the silk as sacred wraps which showed their power and elegance. The silk cloth was also used for ceremonial wraps to wrap the dead in exhumation ceremonies called famadiahana. Famadiahana is an expression of Madagascar’s traditional ancestral worship and is a celebration of family members who have passed on. These ceremonies are still present today.
In addition, men and women proudly wear these unique scarves and shawls in Madagascar and abroad. The wild silk is also used as tapestries, table runners, and in home décor.
Give women financial power to support their family, thus improving their overall quality of life, and earning them household respect as a money earner. We have seen that when women choose where the money goes, it goes directly back to the family to support health, education, and children’s needs.
Protect local tapia forests in Madagascar- That’s where the wild silkworms live. The silk sales provide a financial incentive for locals to protect these forests. If locals can make money from selling the silkworm cocoons, there is an immediate reason to preserve the forest, and to keep silkworm populations strong. Conservation is especially important in Madagascar as it is known for being home to one-of-a-kind flora and fauna while being plagued with human-caused deforestation. We are aware of the environmental challenges and want to do more in this area to preserve the Borocera silkworm’s habitat, which is still being threatened by cow farmer hillside fires and poor resource management.
Build girls’ and women’s confidence through entrepreneurial successes and capacity building.
Reinvent the Madagascar silk into a more modern and relevant fashion micro economy.
Provide lifelong cultural exchange between a small town in Madagascar and America (+ abroad). Idea: Please post a photo of you wearing the silk on my Facebook page so the weavers can see those who love and appreciate their work. Yep, they have facebook through their cell phones- still no running water, electricity, or indoor plumbing though. The weavers charge their phones with solar chargers.