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Khmer Crafts and Food Festival empowering Cambodian women

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Khmer Craft and Food Festival will showcase women’s weaving, attendees are encouraged to ‘upcycle’ by bringing their torn clothes along for repair. Post staff

Khmer Crafts and Food Festival empowering Cambodian women

It is almost once again time for the annual Khmer Crafts and Food Festival (KCFF) in Phnom Penh. This rapidly growing event aims to promote Khmer culture as well as products that are totally Cambodian. From original artwork, to handmade crafts, traditional weaving, and of course food.

What makes the KCFF different to other festivals is the fact that not only are these products, and delicious dishes, made right here in the Kingdom, but the supply chains that provide the ingredients and materials are all from within Cambodia as well. Making KCFF a fantastic opportunity to experience Cambodia’s many wonderful and beautiful art forms and foods.

Another factor that makes KCFF different to other festivals is the fact it is held only one day a year, making the opportunity to attend even more exclusive.

The event will take place on February 23, on Street 330, next to the Tuol Sleng Museum from 10am, through the day till 7pm.

The street will be closed for the day, “We hire a tent and [put] tables on both sides, and we block the road,” explained Villageworks Director, Norm Bunnak, adding, “this year we will have more food and more varieties”.

Supei Liu, Vice president of global initiatives for the Nomi Network told the The Post “the whole idea of the KCFF is really to promote the local businesses, especially Khmer owned, Cambodian made products”.

The vendors themselves are broken down into six different categories, “One is called cultural heritage … that is basically anything that is traditionally inspired from Cambodian culture, any things that are culturally relevant,” says Liu.

Another group is ‘Organic’ that means “any type of food product, it can be rice, anything that fits the category,” said Liu.

The upcycled group of vendors are an innovative response to using what is commonly seen as rubbish, to create beautiful wares. KCFF, with the help of Nomi Network and Villageworks has made these businesses aware of their innate value. Not only is the intiative valuable to the employees, but also all Cambodians, without these upcyclers, Cambodia would have even more rubbish clogging its fields, streets, and rivers.

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Vendors sell local food at the festival. Photo supplied

“Many of us are probably familiar with how to use recycled materials,” says Liu. “So vendors who are doing that will fit into this category [upcycled].”

A great example of this type of vendor is Angkor Bullet Jewellery, a grassroots business that uses old munitions casings to fashion artful pieces that are highly prized, not only for their beauty but for the story that accompanies each handmade piece.

Other examples of vendors who will be at KCFF 2019 include, Cambodian Women’s Support Group handicraft makers, providing hand made goods such as one of a kind bags. Also in attendance will be Carino Cambodia, a company who has been training women to produce high quality women’s fashion since 2010. Of course this is just the tip of the KCFF iceberg.

Also included at KCFF is the customised category. The customer can customise their own possessions with “simple embroidery … this year we will also have people bringing their own clothes that they want to tailor or fix, they can fix it right there,” explained Bunnak and Liu.

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Visitors attend one of the KCFF event held in the capital. Photo supplied

The other group is called creative zone remarked Liu, “this is where we offer art, palm weaving and braiding, so you can make your own little basket,” with Bunnak adding “we have been collecting [materials] for necklaces, so you put it all together and create your own jewellery”.

And of course the last category is food! Be under no misconceptions, there will be more food than ever before at KCFF2019! “We will have Cambodian food, all Cambodian food, fruit, different kinds of fruit, Khmer noodles, and things like that,” Said Bunnak.

To summarise Liu explains, “the idea [of the categories] is each vendor fits in to its unique category, so no one is duplicating and repeating the others”. Liu says “so far we have [quite a bit] of variety but we are definitely looking for more participants [in the food category]”.

Food vendors wishing to participate in the event, particularly cooks making Cambodian food, are encouraged to contact the KCFF as soon as possible, KCFF have deliberately pushed the date for vendor registration back to February 5, for readers of The Post to alert any vendor they think fits the profile.

The KCFF, now in its third year, has grown and gone from strength to strength, “last year we definitely tripled [in size], this year we are hoping to at least double” says Liu, continuing “Our goal for them [vendors] is really to generate revenue as well as sales”. It is worth noting that 100 per cent of sales are kept by the vendors, making KCFF an ethical way to purchase one of a kind pieces that are not usually so easy to source in Cambodia. With KCFF you can shop till you drop, and do it all in one spot.

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KCFF always has had delicious food vendors, 2019 is no exception. Post staff

Competitions, events, and activities will be happening throughout the day. Workshops and activities will continue for the duration of the festival.

Many of the vendors attending have also been to the previous KCFF events, making them examples of truly sustainable business models all aided by Villageworks and Nomi Network.

This has helped the mostly female participants in KCFF to be empowered, to equip themselves, and connect with people in their communities. By being part of KCFF, and working with Villagworks and Nomi Network, they are aiming to strengthen their businesses and technical capacity. This in turn allows them to aid in local community job creation. Completing the sustainable cycle, and giving the women involved a great chance at a better future, not only for themselves and their families, but their whole communities.

So be sure to save the date and remember it is a one day only event. Make the most of this unique event by spending time interacting with the fabulous vendors and remember when you purchase these unique wares, you are not only helping the vendor you are empowering entire Cambodian communities.

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