After spending a week in deepest rural Kasigau, Kenya working with 800 women who are desperate to scale up production of beautiful baskets that are now flying off the shelves in major North American retail outlets, it has become clear to me that we need to rethink current traditional retail business paradigms, and the financing models that support them, if we are serious about including more marginalized producers in the global economy.
Craft is the second largest employer in developing economies after agriculture with millions of people – mostly women - operating, most often informally, in this sector. Demand for handmade, authentic, well-designed products has never been stronger. Despite this the crafts sector is still not regarded as having serious business potential. Instead it continues to be seen predominantly as a charitable endeavor. As a result, it has not benefitted from the investment, supply chain and market access solutions now on offer for products like fair trade coffee. For more than fifteen years coffee growers have had access to technical assistance, loans, grants, forward contacting and leasing products which have resulted in a tremendous increase in production and not least quality -- all of which have yielded much higher returns to farmers and coffee growers globally. These interventions along with the fair trade movement itself have resulted in growing consumer confidence and willingness to pay substantial premiums for high quality fairly traded coffee. It has become cool to drink fair trade coffee, with no questions asked.
Artisans producing beautiful handmade products – like the wonderful 800 women in Kasigau - deserve the same opportunity. Given already fast growing demand, it is time to regard the crafts industry as both a business opportunity – one that not only offers a broader choice of high quality products, but also peace of mind and social purpose for consumers, and tremendous impact for the producers. For this to happen the fragmented value chain supporting the craft industry has to be fixed and the appropriate players in the sector properly aligned.
At Far & Wide Collective we like to think big and small at the same time. With your help we can both support small business growth on the ground in places like Kasigau but also contribute to fixing the overall supply chain that is holding progress, access to markets and prosperity back for so many people.
Holiday season is one of the best times of the year for connecting the world's most exceptional artisans in developing economies to the international market. This year we're excited to share some holiday gift guides featuring our products that help support the many talented artisans we work with.
We hope you find inspiration in some of them as well as participate in our Instagram Holiday Giveaway noted at the bottom of the post.
Honoured to have our very own Turquoise Mountain woodwork, walnut Jali 'Lattice' tray hand-carved in Afghanistan featured in this unique gift guide.
Featured these beautiful, decorative charcoal and gold bowls that are handmade entirely from recycled newspapers in Swaziland.
Who doesn't enjoy surprises? We certainly do. And we were pleased to see that this cotton Peruvian hand-woven pouch brightened WhoWhatWear's day and made their 'awesome' gift guide!
Gaby calls this her "ultimate Christmas presents". Our handmade African baskets from Kenya made the list amongst other wonderful gift ideas!
A wonderful round up of online charitable organizations where you can donate funds or purchase an item that will make an impact in someone's life.
Post a photo of your purchase or Far & Wide gift on Instagram* for a chance to win a Far & Wide gift card.
* Participant's Instagram profile must be public to enter the contest
What does Cyber Monday, a North American retail concept, have to do with artisans and craftspeople in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya and other emerging economies?