Happy Fair Trade Month! For 31 days we’re seting out fun ideas and activities (and a contest!) to have you eating Fair Trade bananas, hosting movie screenings, baking delicious Fair Trade goodies, recycling Halloween costumes, and giving out Fair Trade chocolates to trick-or-treaters. For more, visit Fair Trade Your Halloween.
Fair Trade Successes in Rural India: From Cycles of Drought to Cycles of Reuse
There was no water filtration plant in Barmer, Rajasthan when the Austin-based Fair Trade business Handmade Expressions started in 2005, with the goal of improving the economic livelihoods and social standing of artisan communities in rural India. In fact, there was and still is very little water at all there.
Rich art traditions run deep in Rajasthan, unlike the wells, and access to capital for infrastructure and technology improvements is limited. Geographically isolated and characterized by a harsh, arid climate, many people in Rajasthan struggle to make more than $1 a day. But from the start, Manish Gupta, the founder of Handmade Expressions, was interested in doing more than simply getting local people to sell him their products at a better price—for him and the local NGOs he has partnered with, Fair Trade has always been about holistic development.
The traditional block-print fabric bags the artisans in Barmer began to produce for Handmade Expressions quickly became one of their best-selling items. However, hand block-printing requires an immense volume of water to dye and print the fabric. This issue of resource management in the face of environmental and economic adversity is one that many underprivileged communities face—use water to support an income generating project at the expense of other survival needs, or suffer economic hardship?
Instead of leaving this question alone, Handmade Expressions has sought to make it obsolete by paying attention to local practices and needs, and putting the increased income made possible by Fair Trade to task.
This year, in partnership with a local NGO called SETU, the Society for Empowerment & Trade Uplift of Artisans, Handmade Expressions sponsored and helped install a water treatment plant in Barmer that allows for the recapture and reuse of the water used in block-printing and dyeing. The plant, inaugurated August 28th, has the capacity to filter 2,000 liters of water each hour and each batch of water can be filtered and reused 15 times!
In addition, what is truly rewarding about this news is learning that Global Exchange has been able to have a direct impact on the success of Fair Trade and sustainable development in Rajasthan through our ongoing support of Handmade Expressions. Over the years, we have ordered hundreds of those very same block-print bags to give out to new members as our way of saying thank you. How inspiring then, for us at the Fair Trade stores to see the real changes we are supporting, and for our grassroots supporters to be able to look at the bag they got maybe even years ago, when they first became a member, and know they’ve been a part of such a successful movement for social and economic justice. It takes time and a lot of effort, but the accomplishments prove to us why we want to continue our work around Fair Trade—we all benefit and get to grow together, in solidarity.
Join Global Exchange for $35/year and we’ll send you a gorgeous customized Global Exchange tote bag from Handmade Expressions women’s cooperative in India, a No-Nonsense Guide to Democracy, Globalization or International Development and a bag of Equal Exchange chocolates!