Last updated December 12, 2012

Partner Description:

Yellow Leaf Hammocks is a mission-driven, market-based social enterprise dedicated to supporting high-wage weaving jobs for artisans in the hill tribe communities of rural northern Thailand.

By creating an international sales channel for high-margin, eco-luxe hammocks, Yellow Leaf is empowering margnizalized hill tribes to alleviate poverty, agitate for social justice and combat environmental degradation.

Yellow Leaf’s weavers are among the 1.2 million hill tribe members in Thailand who exist on society’s lowest rung. Many are denied civil rights and social services as aliens in their own country. This makes them especially vulnerable to exploitation, including sex trafficking, child labor and indentured servitude. Most subsist in extreme poverty on less that US$1 a day.


The initial hammock weaving community was the Mlabri, also known as the Yellow Leaf people. Traditionally hunter-gatherers, their way of life was devastated in the mid-20th century by rapid deforestation and economic development. With no land ownership rights, no knowledge of agriculture or sources of income, the Mlabri were forced to work for neighboring tribes or for toxic slash-and-burn farming operations. Between the 1960s and 1990s, due to malnutrition and malaria, the Mlabri population shrunk to less than 300 people, their language becoming one of UNESCO’s “endangered languages.”

The Mlabri have now established a village, and through hammock weaving, their first economic initiative to generate results, they have gained recognition as citizens from the government. Hammock weaving has created high wages and flexible jobs. Weavers are trained and can manage their workflow according to family priorities. Expanding from the initial Mlabri community, artisans from the nearby Hmong village and surrounding rural areas are also weaving hammocks. Now there’s a waiting list to become a Yellow Leaf weaver!

While the Mlabri have established a village and gained recognition as citizens from the government, hammock weaving is the first economic initiative to generate promising results. It has created high wages and flexible jobs. Weavers are trained and can manage their workflow according to family priorities. Expanding from the initial Mlabri community, artisans from the nearby Hmong village and surrounding rural areas are also weaving hammocks. Now there’s a waiting list to become a Yellow Leaf weaver!

Although weaving represents an excellent opportunity, it’s difficult to stabilize supply and demand. Hammock sales vary by season, and during slow seasons, weavers are still compelled to revert to destructive agricultural practices or seek employment elsewhere.

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Yellow Leaf Hammocks are hand-woven and “insanely comfortable.”

Yellow Leaf Hammocks was created by Joe Demin, who first visited the villages in 2010 and saw the opportunity to build weaving into the foundation of a healthy micro-economy for the region.

As “Chief Relaxation Officer” of Yellow Leaf, Demin is committed to generating international sales channels for these hammocks and has had success building a fanbase and working with major U.S. retailers like URBN & Trina Turk. As a boot-strapped start-up, Yellow Leaf has seen solid growth over the past year but continues to wrestle with stabilizing economic opportunities for weavers.

By creating a larger, more global distribution network, the enterprise can ensure more stable demand for high-wage weaving work. Hammock weaving provides a 650% increase in income over slash-and-burn agriculture, allowing each weaver to earn in a week what an entire family would earn from a month of back-breaking field labor. In their provice, weavers can even earn as much as a college-educated teacher.

Kiva lenders’ funds are used to help artisans buy the raw materials they need to make hammocks. Additionally, the funds are used to expand Yellow Leaf’s distribution model to increase worldwide hammock sales.

A unique lending approach:

Yellow Leaf Hammocks currently works with two communities and about 100 artisans who weave hammocks; 60 of them work quite regularly while the rest combine weaving with planting, harvesting or hunting.

Loan sizes range from $500 to $2,500 depending on artisans’ needs and capacities. Yellow Leaf Hammocks identifies high-quality workers and advises them on production so that they do not take on more than they can produce or more than the company can sell. Once weavers finish their hammocks, they are delivered to the company where they are sold in about a month.

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Group photo of Mlabri tribe members in northern Thailand.

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Children relaxing in a hammock manufactured by a Mlabri artisan.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks joined Kiva through our Experimental Partnership Program, and has therefore received a lighter level of due diligence. Accordingly, loans associated with this partner carry a higher level of risk than typical Kiva loans.

Images courtesy of Yellow Leaf Hammocks.

Repayment Performance on Kiva

    This Field Partner All Kiva Partners
  Start Date On Kiva Dec 19, 2012 Oct 12, 2005
Total Loans $26,825 $575,708,700
Amount of raised Inactive loans $0 $290,425
Number of raised Inactive loans 0 271
Amount of Paying Back Loans $18,250 $119,727,775
Number of Paying Back Loans 26 125,910
Amount of Ended Loans $8,575 $455,690,500
Number of Ended Loans 9 580,665
Delinquency Rate 0.00% 3.38%
Amount in Arrears $0 $2,670,459
Outstanding Portfolio $18,250 $78,966,332
Number of loanDelinquent 0 11,306
Default Rate 0.00% 1.09%
Amount of Ended Loans Defaulted $0 $4,974,260
Amount of Ended Loans $8,575 $455,690,500
Number of Ended Loans Defaulted 0 15,329
Currency Exchange Loss Rate 0.00% 0.07%
Amount of Currency Exchange Loss $0 $406,266
Refund Rate 0.00% 0.78%
Amount of Refunded Loans $0 $4,479,350
Number of Refunded Loans 0 5,008

Loan Characteristics On Kiva

    This Field Partner All Kiva Partners
  Loans to Women Borrowers 91.43% 74.23%
Average Loan Size $766 $419
Average Individual Loan Size $766 $656
Average Group Loan Size $0 $1,825
Average number of borrowers per group 0 8
Average GDP per capita (PPP) in local country $0 $3,440
Average Loan Size / GDP per capita (PPP) 0.00% 12.17%
Average Time to Fund a Loan 0.09 days 5.52 days
Average Dollars Raised Per Day Per Loan $8,765.00 $75.88
  Average Loan Term 9.34 months 10.25 months

Journaling Performance on Kiva

    This Field Partner All Kiva Partners
  Total Journals 24 286,543
  Journaling Rate 100.00% 42.42%
  Average Number of Comments Per Journal 0.00 0.08
  Average Number of Recommendations Per Journal 0.00 1.93

Borrowing Cost Comparison (based on 2011 data)

    This Field Partner Median for MFI's in Country All Kiva Partners
  Portfolio Yield N/A N/A 33.66%
  Profitability (return on assets) N/A N/A -1.40%
  Average Loan Size (% of per capita income) N/A N/A 41.35%

Country Fast Facts

Field Partner Staff

Joe Denim