Batak Craft

Batak Craft: Traditional Skills and Livelihood Development for the Vanishing Batak Tribe

Roxas, PhilippinesPuerto Princesa, Philippines
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Batak Craft aims to rehabilitate the Batak's physical and cultural health by addressing the root causes of their depopulation through enterprise facilitation: specifically, by creating a sustainable basket-weaving business for the Batak.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the Batak's traditional basket-weaving can be developed to save their dwindling population and dying culture?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Batak Craft addresses the main problem of the Batak: poverty. Being a hunter-gatherer tribe, the Batak are not well-equipped to operate in today's market economy. Without access to education, they have a hard time working with lowlanders and finding appropriate jobs, and therefore earning a steady income. With the forest-resources on a steady decline, the Batak are losing more and more of their natural food source, health, and cultural identity.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is to work within the tribe's cultural foundation: Batak Craft will develop the tribe's skill and process efficiency in traditional basket-weaving, document the tribe and its culture alongside, and sell their products to the international market. Batak Craft will achieve four goals: enable the Batak to earn a sustainable living, document the cultural practices before it vanishes, disseminate the information to a global audience, and inspire the Batak to nourish their culture. With this project, the Batak can earn enough for their basic needs like food and medical treatment, since majority of them are malnourished and sick. Then when the basics are covered, they can begin to think about self-actualization.


None yet.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Batak Craft enables Batak women to earn an income in the comforts of their home--where they're usually needed by their children. Scenario: Marecel Mejares (a real Batak woman) who has four kids and suffers chronic asthma attacks on a daily basis. Back when she was healthy, she could help her husband Nikasyo work on their vegetable fields; now, she's stuck at home and Nikasyo cannot leave for long periods of time to work because he has to take care of Marecel.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

As we are starting operations, we have so far provided half a month's worth of income to two Batak settlements (Brgy. Kalakwasan and Brgy. Langogan), which has helped them secure their basic needs like food and medicine. We have also raised awareness on the Batak tribe, and foreign journalists have expressed interest in documenting their culture and issues. In the future, we will have a steady stream of orders so that the tribe is secure enough to buy rice and fish for food and afford medical treatment as necessary. With a steady income source, the Batak will therefore be able to keep their traditions alive because they don't have to "do what the lowlanders do" just to earn money.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Within the first two years, we'll establish a basket-weaving system that's sustainable for their current resources. We aim to start with a pilot group in Brgy. Langogan (which is currently the most accessible), and then on the following years expand operations to all other settlements (w/ major Batak populations). With a system in place, the Batak can then hone their skills, spread the skills to the youth, and also be able to teach basketry to others as a way to earn additional income. In the bigger picture, we aim to put the Batak in an expert position of forest-management and craftsmanship.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Batak Craft has a three-phase development plan: 1. Establish basket-production, 2. Develop craftsmanship and innovate designs. 3. Increase tourism through basket-weaving workshops and cultural presentations. Batak Craft is a revenue-generating project, and relies on basket sales, course fees and donations to expand operations. The cultural documentation aspect of the project will also earn income by creating books and videos for the public.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Centre for Sustainability (Non-profit) is currently field-testing basket-production within commercial establishments in Puerto Princesa. Batak Craft differs in that it creates a more intimate system of building relationships between the Batak women weavers and the people who buy their baskets, and eventually, reaching a bigger global audience.

Founding Story

I once worked in construction at Palawan, and singled out the toughest, hardest-working, most honest men in the team. As I spent more time with them, I discovered that they're Batak tribesmen. I learned that they're struggling with basic survival. Anthropological literature classified them as "vanishing", and I would not let that happen. I then asked three other changemakers to help--so we could actually visit all 6 Batak settlements in Palawan to see how we can help them improve their trade. The Batak weave beautiful baskets, but are taken advantage of when they sell to market; they get ripped off. We're here to stop that cycle of poverty. My design background contributes to the craft.


Lara Alyssa H. Frayre - Founder; All-around person (Full-Time) Lara (Sanskrit name Radha) is a Filipino designer who has been helping companies build their brands, establish online presence, and tell their stories effectively for the past 5 years. She has been funding the project's research phase for a year, and is responsible in ensuring the project's continued development and profitability. Giuseppe Petracca - Co-Founder; Financer (Part-Time) Giuseppe, (Sanskrit name Ácarya Premamáyánanda Avadhúta) is an Italian Margi monk who has been spearheading social and spiritual development projects across the world for over 30 years. He is currently the Office Secretary/General Coordinator for Ánanda Márga in South East Asia, and has written the book, Prama Analysis (2006), on which PraAna app is based. Renato P. Estepa Jr. - Co-Founder; Operations (Full-Time) Renato, (Sanskrit name Rudradeva) is a Filipino chef and construction worker. Responsible for making things happen on the ground, Renato does everything from shopping for food supplies, driving the team to the tribal settlement, cooking for the Batak host family, to making sure we're always safe and secure during the hikes. As the project grows, we intend to hire an accountant, a sales and marketing manager, and a production manager.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:


Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:


Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I have been running a graphic & web design business for the past 2 years, where I worked with social enterprises to help them build their brands.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Clifford Espinosa, my mentor, is a Filipino ecological designer who specializes in innovative wooden furniture inspired by local culture. He constantly guides me and advises on product design and development, taken from his decades of experience working with wood.