Woodworking Cooperative of Northern India
This non-profit organization was created for the uplifting and development of underprivileged artisans. It is composed mainly of male artisans, both Hindu and Muslim, who suffer educational, training and health related issues. The hardships that they endure include physical handicaps, illiteracy, extreme poverty, entrapment in lower castes, lack of knowledge about trade and markets, among others.
An all too common problem facing India, as well as other developing countries, is villagers moving to already overpopulated cities in search of employment opportunities. Typically a village will have a craft that they specialize in, either because of the natural resources available to them in their region or because the craft is passed down through the generations. Competitive prices locally make it nearly impossible for these artisans in the villages to earn enough to sustain themselves and their families by only selling in their local marketplaces. In the cities the cost of living is much higher and job opportunities are scarce.
This particular cooperative has made it a goal to keep as many artisans in their villages as possible by providing them access to a global marketplace. Because of their involvement in Fair Trade, these master craftspeople can sell their goods at a price that factors in the cost of materials and also the time it took them to make each item, rather than having to price their crafts competitively.
The art of traditional woodworking plays a very important role in artisan communities and villages of North Central India. Inside this common work facility we watched as artisans used a cleverly designed single generator powered 4 station lathe and hand tools turn blocks of sustainable Sheesham wood, known as Indian Rosewood, into many of the fine treasures we carry at One World Fair Trade.
The artisans don’t have knowledge of marketing skills and have many barriers to access international trade. However, they are very skilled in making wooden products and are committed to quality, so production is not a problem for them. Therefore, Fair Trade mostly helps them find a market and promote their products. This group makes so many of our fabulous wooden games, a great gift for kids and kids at heart.
Our woodworking artisan partners respect environmental values by only using only Sheesham wood from the forest quota given by the government of India (which sells the wood of dead trees). When it comes to the advancement of the people, the organization is taking several steps for the betterment of the artisans. They have created self-help groups for the artisans and also organize several exhibitions for promoting their art to increase their market opportunities. One World Fair Trade is proud to purchase and represent handcrafts from this group.