Producer Stories

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Fair Trade Artisans

Trade as One connects Americans with hardworking women and men all over the world, who use their own ingenuity and work ethic to pull themselves out of poverty.

Fair Trade Artisans

Fair Trade means that our spending here in America can give people on the other side of the world a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. The women and men making these products were faced with extreme poverty and its consequences. Their children faced a lack of education and a need to work at best, and disease at worst. Clean water was often a luxury, and access to health care was often impossible.

But Fair Trade has given them a way out. The consequences of choices made here in the West continue to ripple into cities, villages, and homes that most of us will never see. These women and men are given their rights: fair wages, clean and safe working conditions, access to clean water, health and education opportunities, and their kids in schools. Our choices here in America mean justice for many who would have never experienced it otherwise. In Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, the Middle East, and Latin America, our spending is changing lives.

All because people in America continue to divert their spending away from big-box stores and shopping malls, and into channels that directly benefit the global poor. That’s what it means to Trade as One.

Here, in alphabetical order, are a few of the specific stories behind some of these talented producer groups:

ALLPA, Peru

Allpa is named for a Quechua Indian word that means “earth.” Allpa is a project of the Peruvian Institute of Research and Develpoment, a non-profit organization that manages development projects to benefit Peru’s poorest rural areas. Allpa was set up in 1982 to improve the living standards of handicraft producers. Today Allpa is a Peruvian craft-trading company providing marketing assistance to 100 artisan groups and family workshops throughout Peru, benefiting approximately 2000 families. Allpa provides technical help, product development advice, skills training, tools and appropriate equipment to artisans. Artisans can access short-term and mid-term loans to improve infrastructure and their workshops. Allpa works with families located in Cusco, Ayacucho, Chulucanas, Cajamarca and Huancavelica as well as Shipibo people living in the Amazon rainforest area of Pucalepa. For most of these people, craft production is a sole source of income.

Allpa is a member of the International Federation for Alternative Trade (IFAT) and the World Fair Trade Association (WFTO) and produces high quality items such as pottery, jewelry, silver work, ornaments, nativities, painted wood and glass.

ARCHANA HANDICRAFTS, New Delhi, India

The word Archana in Sanskrit means “a thing of truth or beauty” and Archana Handicrafts was begun in the 1970s by Rakesh Kaushal as a practical expression of his Christian faith. Archana is a private business that exists to help impoverished Indian artisans by encouraging, developing and selling their traditional handicrafts. Archana is comitted to fair trade principles and practices which help to provide a sustainable and improved standard of living.

Archana markets products including brass, shesham wood, paper products and jewelry items from artisan groups all across India . Artisans include individuals, family groups or whole villages- but all are offered assistance with banking, design, training and management. In this way artisans are able to stay and thrive in their home villages rather than migrate to the cities. Environmentally sustainable practices are employed in the production of the products.

CORR- THE JUTE WORKS, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Started in 1973, primarily as a rehabilitation project for destitute war-widows after the war for independence from Pakistan, CORR stands for Christian Organization for Relief and Rehabilitation. CORR- The Jute Works has grown and developed into a women’s non-profit handicraft making and marketing trust, and has become one of Bangladesh’s largest exporter of handicrafts.

CORR seeks maximum benefit to its producers and works with poor and neglected rural women regardless of caste, creed and race. These women are empowered through handicraft production and other job creation, or animal husbandry projects, and they receive job training and leadership skills. Principles of thrift, self-help and democratic practice are operated and the members share ownership, participate in decision-making and share the benefits.

Today, the products are not solely limited to Jute and include a variety of products made from natural materials such as terracotta, jute, bamboo and cane.

EL-ATRASH WORKSHOP, West Bank, Palestine

George El-Atrash has carved olive wood all his life to sustain his family and started his workshop in 1967. George is a Palestinian Christian living and working from Beit Sahour in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. George now has 7 employees which include his brothers and sons, so this is a family-owned and run business carving nativities, Biblical figures, kitchen ware and other items. The artisans of El-Atrash have maintained their work over the years through difficult times of curfews, travel restrictions and closed schools and continue to create skilled products using traditional skills and locally-grown wood.

GRASSROOTS HQ CO. LTD., Chiang Mai, Thailand

Grassroots was established in 1995 as an alternative trade organization marketing handicrafts from several cooperatives. One of these co-operatives is White Lotus and makes beautiful hand-made paper-products, some of which are made from mulberry leaves, and their techniques include traditional batiking skills. White Lotus were infact the first group in Thailand to perfect the skill of batiking onto paper. All of the products and practices are environmentally friendly (paper made from mulberry trees is self-sustaining, as mulberry trees regrow from the same roots!).

White Lotus provides employment alternatives and self-reliance skills to vulnerable local women. Poverty in this rural area has often resulted in young women being lured away or sold into prostitution. White Lotus helps prevent such exploitation by providing viable, village-based employment. This project provides training in paper-making and a marketing support system for sales. Grassroots pays a quarterly bonus to White Lotus, and then, as a cooperative, they decide which projects and needs to fund. Grassroots HQ is also involved in a wide range of community development and outreach programs such as caring for people with AIDS. The area of San Patong outside Chiang Mai, where White Lotus is based, has a high HIV infection rate. Grassroots administers Women Against AIDS, which provides loans and education programs, and trains volunteers who assist families affected by AIDS.

HEED HANDICRAFTS, Dhaka, Bangladesh

HEED stands for Health, Education and Economic Development and HEED Handicrafts is a job creation project of HEED Bangladesh, a Christian, nonprofit, NGO in Bangladesh. HEED Bangladesh started in 1974 growing out of relief work around the time of Bangladesh’s independence as a nation. HEED Handicrafts, based in Dhaka, formed in 1978 to empower artisans who were below the poverty line to make crafts and textiles. HEED thus started with relief work but has moved into development work and has a strong emphasis on participatory development, and helping people to form groups and projects and to solve their own problems.

Inevitably, wars and international disputes always bring suffering to ordinary people. After the Bangladesh war of independence in 1971, thousands of Pakistani people living as refugees in Dhaka were not allowed to return home. Social exclusion and lack of formal citizenship in Bangladesh made it impossible for them to get work.

HEED was inspired to create employment opportunities for the refugees in handicraft production using locally available resources. More than 30 years on, an estimated 11,000 people in 304 producer groups have had access to training and employment as a result of HEED’s activities. HEED has worked hard to create access to markets for their products- 10% of which are sold locally, and 90% internationally. HEED is a member of the World Fair Trade Association.

HEED seeks to create sustainable jobs for marginalized people and workers include refugees, widows, former lepers, minorities and other disadvantaged people, most of whom are illiterate. Most artisans work from home as members of co-operatives and their incomes now allow children to attend school, and nutrition to be improved. Women are empowered to be full members of society and to earn a living wage.

In addition to handicrafts, HEED is involved in emergency relief programs for disadvantaged people, micro-credit, fisheries, agricultural projects, community health, family development, gender education and leprosy hospitals.

LA LUCIERNAGA, Honduras

Candelas La Luciérnaga (“firefly candles”) is a small, women’s candle-making group in Honduras and is a project of Actions for Popular Development (APD), a non-profit women’s organization committed to the welfare and empowerment of women. ADP runs a shelter for abused women and their children, a home for pregnant women and a micro-lending program. La Luciérnaga’s candle workshop now employs four women, two of whom are former residents of the women’s shelter. La Luciérnaga’s endeavors help to support ADP financially while also providing income for the women artisans

PROKRITEE, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Prokritee (meaning “nature” in Bangla) manages 8 handicraft enterprises in Bangladesh and is a service based agency that provides managerial, product design, development and marketing assistance to these groups. The aim is to provide jobs for poor rural women, who are heads of households, widows or divorcees and have little or no income. Prokritee helps to provide jobs and to find a market locally and internationally for their products, all the while maintaining high Fair Trade standards. The women are able to learn skills, improve their standard of living and send their children to school and can look to the future with hope and happiness, instead of poverty and despair.

Prokritee grew out of the marketing operations of Mennonite Central Committee Bangladesh’s Job Creation Program, operating since 1975, and was established as an independent operation in 2001.

Prokritee benefits from having a design department, which helps the enterprises to combine the skill of the producers with the needs of customers. The design department is also committed to develop designs based on the cultural heritage of Bangladesh.

UNIMEX HANOI, Hanoi, Vietnam

Unimex Hanoi is a Vietnamese import/export company that provides local and international marketing for four workshops employing around 170 artisans in northern Vietnam. One of these workshops is in a traditional ceramic-making village called Bat Trang, east of Hanoi. Unimex brings together small buyers and small workshops who would otherwise not find each other and there are many benefits to the artisans including loans, training and product development.

Unimex was founded in 1962 and its artisans create a variety of traditional and functional items including baskets, ceramics, kitchen items, lacquer-ware and bamboo products.

YAYASAN MITRA BALI, Bali, Indonesia

Tourism to the island of Bali has made the wider world aware of the incredible natural beauty of the island and has brought an international market to its shores for its crafts and products. Sadly, in actuality, only a tiny portion of the benefits of the tourist industry are ever enjoyed by the village craft producers. Instead, the middlemen running the tourist shops profit while the actual producers remain impoverished and in need, rarely receiving deposits for their work nor fair living wages.

In 1993 as a response to this situation Mitra Bali was formed to support poor artisans facing ruin. Mitra Bali is a member of the World Fair Trade Association and assists these craft producers by ensuring clear dialogue, equality and a sense of mutual respect throughout the production process. The producers always receive fifty percent of the total payment up front, they are paid promptly, the payment being a percentage of the suitable and fair sale price, which is calculated together with the craft producers. The cooperative only works with producers who support gender equity, provide healthy working conditions, use environmentally sustainable materials, and do not exploit women or use child labor. Mitra Bali offers regular free training workshops on design and product development, including ways to help producers develop their businesses. The organization’s shop in Denpasar, capital of Bali, provides access to the local market. Mitra Bali also supports a native Albesia tree reforestation program as an environmental initiative, as well as being an effort to prevent artisans from selling their land to relentless developers.

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