The Mongolian Project
Creating opportunities ...honoring tradition
In 2011, a chance encounter with Ken Dabkowski during Highland’s Maple Festival was to bring about a chain of events that would link Jacenich with felt makers more than six thousand miles away. Dabkowski is a team member with the Heritable Innovation Trust Program (H.I.T.) According to H.I.T. it is “the first non-property based means to document, protect, and steward indigenous and customary knowledge.” (www.heritableinnovationtrust.org/node/854) Dabkowski has worked with small business develop-ment projects in Mongolia. Nick Rogers, a friend of Dabkowski created a YouTube video, “An inside look at the art of felting with Lisa Jacenich.” Dabkowski, introduced Tsend Enkhtuya, the vice president of the Mongolian National Business Federation to Jacenich via this video. Jacenich suggested that Mongolian felters could benefit as she had from small-scale mechanization. For the past year the two women have been in communication to implement a small business incubator program for felters in rural prov-inces of Mongolia.
The Mongolian Ministry of Agriculture and Light Industry has agreed to partially fund the project. Jacenich has been invited to coordinate the acquisition, shipment and training of felting machines for the Uverkhangai and Arkhangai provinces as pilot pro-grams. Jacenich has designed small "incubator" cells, that at a minimum will employ 22 people and will include the following sta-tions: washing, picking, carding, dyeing, design, needle felting, wet felting, sewing, and embellishing with mechanization where appropriate. “At maximum production levels, it is projected that 166 lbs of cleaned, picked and carded wool will produce 500 feet of completed felt in an 8 hour day”, said Jacenich. “Raw wool amounts needed to produce 166 lbs of prepared wool will vary due to variables of lanolin content, dirt and vegetation content, and volume based by micron count of the fibers.” Potential end products will include items for industrial use, such as filters for coal burning stoves which is currently being investigated by students at the University of Virginia, as well as, retail sale items of clothing and accessories. These employment models can also be implemented in other rural agricultural counties. This project is not only important to the economic development of rural Mongolians but also to U.S. small business manufacturers of the felt making equipment. In addition, we want to explore the possiblites for agri-tourism felting excursions, so people from around the world can experience firsthand the knowledge and skills of the Mongolian people.
Jacenich said, “The intention of the project is not to eliminate jobs through mechanization but instead to create jobs by implement-ing machines that rely on a labor force while simultaneously creating efficiencies that will make end products economically viable for resale. This effort demonstrates how a small business can help small businesses.
Jim Jacenich, award winning journalist (update, the date of the trip to Mongolia has been delayed until after the elections. The Jaceniches will likely travel to Mongolia in August. Jim Jacenich submitted 25 June 2012)
The Mongolian Government is funding everything except the airfare for Jim Jacenich. Donations are gratefully accepted.