A home-made souvenir from Laos spurs
Iowan man to launch a green business venture to help alleviate poverty in
During his visit to Laos in 2004, Bill
Newbrough was given a bag made by a villager in a northern remote area as a
gift.He brought it back to the US and
one day had a chance to use it. That was when he found out an interesting thing
about the bag. Even though it looks not too strong but it turns out to be the
opposite and has some remarkable qualities about it. Mr. Newbrough told VOA in
“I became very interested in it, used it
for a number of years and then during that time pursued the possibility of
sharing it with the rest of the world, because I found out that it is an
Newbrough believed that selling the bags which he now called Nature Bag, would
benefit the environment and helped poor people in northern Laos who produced
them. So he went back to Laos and launched his Nature Bag project
Bounsou Keo-Amphone, a representative of Nature Bag in Luangprabang told VOA
that the bag is made from a vine called “Piat”, which is abundant in the
northern region of the country.
Bounsou said 4 northern provinces, including Oudomxay, Luangnamtha, Bokeo and
Phongsaly, are currently involved in producing the bags. And the project is now
expanding to Houaphanh and Luangprabang.
Newbrough said that his partners in Laos buy the bags from villagers from
around $5 to $10 a piece and then sell them through the website www.naturebag.ORG
and some stores in his home state of Iowa carry the product which might cost as
high as $70 a piece for a more elaborate one. But not all of that is profit.
The expenses, besides payments to the villagers who make the bags, include
storing, labeling and shipping which is very expensive, said Mr. Bounsou.
Since the project started more than a
year ago, less than 1,000 bags have been sold. Mr. Newbrough said he now has
about 10,000 bags on hand, and that might be good for negotiations with big
companies he wants to represent him and sell his bags.
For more details in Lao, listen to our
audio files. And for further information, visit the website www.naturebag.ORG