Basket weavers are usually forced to sell their products to middlemen for a pittance, who go on to sell their goods to shops for a profit for themselves.
Our support service eliminates that middleman, buying directly from the artisans and providing them with a fair price for their work. Another part of this is that we also provide straw to the communities, in what we call, a Straw Bank. Straw can be expensive for the communities to buy from the market themselves. So what TradeAID does is buy the straw in bulk at opportune times when the price is lower and then it sells it to the communities for a cheaper price.
By providing orders to the basket weavers from the international market, we are able to provide fair prices which will allow them to make a livelihood from their work, which they put so much time, skill and effort into. As a Fair Trade organization, this is crucial to our aims.
We also aim to improve the skills of the craft communities, providing training to help them diversify their products, as well as providing training which enables them to improve their business and marketing skills. For instance before TradeAID arrived it was the case that many of the communities would only be able to do one kind of basket. However, now, due to the product diversification training provided by TradeAID a single community may be able to make many more than just the one style of basket. Therefore, their business should now be more diverse in terms of products and so they should be able to find more success as well.
As well as Product Diversification training, we also provide Business skills training. This can include things like record keeping, marketing/advertising, customer service, etc. The aim, once again, is that through education we can help people to learn effective business skills and so this will then enrich and nourish their businesses.
Another area we’re currently looking into are alternative dyes for the craftspeople, looking for dye which would be cheaper and more readily available. The current dye used is not without harmful side effects, and as such, we attempt to educate the basket weavers on these dangers and make them aware of precautions that can be taken to diminish these, by providing protective gear such as masks.
Overall, the Basket Weavers and Market Support Service is a sprawling project with big aims and high aspirations. Thus, it can be seen as one of TradeAID’s most vital projects in terms of achieving the aims of “making trade work for the poor” which is our slogan and surely our most fundamental belief.