India is home to more than 3,000 different types of artisan crafts. Estimates of the number of artisans working in India vary widely from 7 million individuals to as high as 200 million. The wide range of these estimates is indicative of the highly informal and unorganized nature of this work. However, this sector is incredibly important to marginalised rural communities in India and around the world. Keeping artisan traditions alive is also important for rural development, cultural heritage, and even for reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
After working in the aid sector for several years, our artisan partner in south India noticed that what the marginalized communities really needed was help in getting their own artisan products to the market. This way they can use their skills, in combination with local plant-based materials, to provide themselves with a livelihood. This in turn drives development in their communities.
Artisans often source local materials, produce products using minimal amounts of energy, and generate next to no waste in the process. Because of the marginalization of artisans and the often unorganized work it can be difficult for them to get their products to market and make an effective living. This is where our partner comes in and acts as a central hub for marketing and promoting products. By enabling the artisans to reach new markets with their products they have created a successful bottom-up development strategy. This helps keep local artisans and communities employed and engaged in their communities without becoming dependent on aid.
Together with our artisan partner and the artisans, we develop new products keeping function and aesthetics in mind and use our supply chain to bring their products to you in a fair trade, Co2 effective and transparent way.
Artisans use materials from their own communities. These materials include coconut by-products and terracotta clay. Terracotta clay is extracted directly from the soil in the area as it is readily available and works perfectly for terracotta pottery. Palm leaves are harvested from the palmera palm trees by palm climbers. These trees go freely in the areas around our artisans and are highly respected and cared for as they provide for many livelihoods.
Coconut coir is also harvested from the trees, coconut coir is a by product of coconuts. Following the extraction of the oil and meat from the coconut coir is harvested by a natural retting process and used to create coir products such as plastic free, and biodegradable coir planting pots, strong coir ropes and nets, and much more. Using coconut coir products helps to ensure that no part of the coconut goes to waste.
After using the coconut water, making oil of the coconut meat, and making use of the coir, the coconut shell is left. It is often the least used part of the coconut. However, the hard shell can also be used for various purposes rather than rot. Coconut charcoal is a great environmentally conscious alternative to mined coal, and coconut bowls can be used to serve food in a natural and aesthetic while using the coconut waste materials and creating livelihood opportunities to the people living amongst the vastness of the very useful coconut palm.
Compostable | Biodegradable | Plants grown in coir pots gain natural growth enhancer from coconut fibres | Coconut charcoal generates heat quickly | Durable | Long-lasting | Utensils - anti-bacterial | 100% natural
By working to enable artisans to protect their craft heritage and utilize traditional methods and materials our partners have created a system that promotes rural development from the bottom-up. Each artisan group is fair trade monitored and in coordination with our local artisan partners. Depending on the needs of the local community each unit addresses a different skill and needs. For example, many of the coconut products are made at a small unit that employs marginalized women from the surrounding area.
A combination of traditional and modern production techniques is also used in production depending on which products are being created, for example, the terracotta products can be fired in an electric kiln or a wood-burning kiln depending on the needs of the specific product and the artisan's preference.
By using local plant materials that are abundantly available and renewable, using handmade and low-energy production methods and leaving little to no waste behind the artisan's products are made with a minimal negative impact on the environment.
UN Sustainable Development Goal
These artisans work within their communities utilizing local resources and heritage skills to promote sustainable development and lifestyles which coexist in harmony with nature. This directly works towards target 12.8 "ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature."
By banding together the artisans are able to protect their cultural heritage, specialize and focus on their skills while working together to bring their products to market. This brings growth and livelihoods to their rural communities.
UN Sustainable Development Goal
By focusing on sustained and inclusive opportunities for their communities the producer is supporting target 8.3 "promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation..."
Artisan sector of India: https://www.ibef.org/blogs/india-s-handicraft-crafts-a-sector-gaining-momentum