Our Difference

Saoban works exclusively with economically and socially marginalized producers in Laos by creating opportunities where rural families and communities can pursue a dignified and sustainable livelihood.

Saoban is guided by the principles of fair trade, wherein we provide fair pay and safe working conditions for village artisans.  An active member of Fair Trade Laos, we adhere to World Fair Trade Organization’s 10 Standards in our day-to-day work.

Saoban takes a holistic approach in our work. We build from the ground up, working with artisans towards long-term sustainability.

Our work focuses on the following key programs:

Saoban builds capacity

  • Saoban delivers technical training, design advice and product development

  • Saoban coordinates access to microloans to initiate or expand production

  • Saoban provides training in management and organizational skills, especially in group formation, group regulations, and roles for group leaders and members

  • Saoban provides training in operating a small business, including simple cost analysis and pricing, quality control, and product grading

  • Saoban provides market information and coordinates cross visits among artisan groups to broaden experience, techniques, and product range

  • Saoban connects artisans to retail and wholesale outlets in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and abroad

Saoban supports and empowers rural communities

  • Saoban assists villagers to form artisan groups or cooperatives (mostly women led), strengthening local communities

  • Saoban helps artisan groups build their own businesses wherein their profits stay in their communities, rather than going to a middleman

  • Saoban supports village-based home production, reducing the rising trend of labour migration and resultant social issues of trafficking, prostitution and HIV/AIDS

  • Saoban encourages artisans choose their own hours, allowing the flexibility to fit production with the rhythm of their family and farming lives

Saoban’s products are eco-friendly

  • Saoban supports sustainable practices by using raw materials from sustainably-managed sources or by using waste materials

  • Saoban promotes the use of natural dyes, reviving traditional indigenous knowledge

  • Saoban artisans create products from local bamboo, silk and organically grown cotton, using hand-powered techniques, the way the Lao people have for centuries

Saoban protects children

  • There is no child labor in the production of Saoban products

  • Women who join Saoban programs do so on the condition that they vaccinate all children and send them to school at least until the end of primary school

  • To preserve cultural heritage, Saoban encourages artisans to hand down their skills and crafts to the next generation

Saoban preserves cultural heritage

  • By cultivating markets for traditional Lao handicrafts, Laos has a rich heritage of craft production but the pressures of modern life and the availability of cheap factory made imports have resulted in Lao people giving up their crafts and their rural livelihoods. As a result, many of the crafts of Laos are vanishing art forms

  • Saoban harnesses the existing resource of talented artisans and helps them to move from subsistence production to sustainable livelihoods