Thursday, May 29, 2008

Helping Artisan Cooperatives Get Their Start

At a book discussion at the Ten Thousand Villages in Pasadena, California recently, I was asked a familiar question along the lines of, "How do you help craftswomen enter the Fair Trade market?" Many folks, whether volunteers with groups like Peace Corps or Catholic Relief Services or backpackers who stay in a community awhile, develop close bounds with a community and want to help them use their talents and skills to create products under Fair Trade terms.  The Fair Trade skin care company Anti-Body is an example of committed entrepreneurs working with their partners in Africa to develop products and get them to market.

Inspired their example and the history of Villages founder, Edna Ruth Byler, I like to encourage these new enterprises, but with a clear eye to the challenges of the handcraft market.  Luckily there are many professionals who do product and cooperative development for a living.  I'm sharing a recent announcement from Aid to Artisans about a training available this summer to help producers and importers develop market readiness.  

And while we are talking about building capacity, on my to-do list is to reach out to Oikocredit a leader of microfinance and a leader in Fair Finance.  If you are interested in borrowing money under fair terms to work with producers you might want to research the Oikocredit requirements and criteria. 

I hope these two leads help those helping producers become Fair Traders!


  1. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Hi Jacq,

    I am a small business in Australia and am searching fro artisan cooperatives where I can purchase wholesale and assist communities. I want to cut out as many of the middlemen as possible. Do you have any advice as to how I can find groups from which to purchase? I would be very appreciative of any info you can share. thank you kylie

  2. Kylie,

    The Pacific Rim has a thriving Fair Trade movement, as I understand it. A good resource for getting started is the regional arm of IFAT--the World Fair Trade Organization.
    Their website is

    Good luck and thanks for your commitment to Fair Trade,