•CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR MARGINALIZED PRODUCERS THROUGH FAIR TRADE

•CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR MARGINALIZED PRODUCERS THROUGH FAIR TRADE

Nepal
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Association for Crafts Producers is a non profit Fair Trade organization incepted in 1984 with the objective of providing regular design expertise, technical assistance, management and marketing services to low income craft producers in general and women craft producers in particular that results in regular adequate wages to supplement family income and improve the overall standard of living.
It enables unorganized informal producer group preserve and promotes their crafts and contributes significantly in household economy. Over the years ACP has been endeavouring to increase its outreach to producers in Nepal. As a Fair trade organization, it adheres to Fair trade principles and would like to see popularity and promotion of Fair trade products in the globe.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Nepal is a landlocked country between two booming economies India and China. It is rich in culture and natural beauty. People are marginalized on the basis of class, gender, ethnicity and the geographic setting. Women are deprived lot especially in the low income social group. Often, they lack a say in the family which usually stems from the fact that they are not contributing to the overall money basket of the family. Combine this with a hesitance in low income groups to educate the girl child as she is ‘somebody else’s property’ and this results in an alarming situation of women. Craft Producers from different geographical areas have their own craft. They possess basic skills but are largely ignorant of consumer tastes and preferences. Pricing is done in an ad hoc manner which often fails to reflect the actual worth of their handiwork. ACP is currently working with over 1100 producers in 15 districts of Nepal of which 90% of them are women. Majority of our producers are illiterate and come from economically and socially deprived backgrounds. They are dispersed in rural and urban settings of Nepal. They do not have enough lands to support their livelihood neither do they had other stable source of income. With the growing market access and technological advancement in the production sector, their occupation came at stake which compelled them to seek for another occupation. Lack of resources makes this unorganized workforce incompetent in the market like, technical knowledge and adaptation, market access and information etc. On the other hand, diversion into another occupation is not easy as they do not have enough skills and knowledge of the related area. Thus, at this crucial stage ACP helped them to revive their skills and provide income generating opportunities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

ACP changed the way handicrafts were perceived. It has played significant role in encompassing women oriented craft like weaving, knitting, sewing, embroidery under the scope of Nepali handicraft. It has changed the traditional notion that craft are only for 'hobbies' and 'time killing element' for women and succeeded in proving that living can be made through these crafts. It has established the fact that unorganized, low skilled women with farm and family responsibilities working irregular hours can be organized and quickly trained to produce quality crafts and turned into competent and reliable work force. By diversifying the indigenous craft into contemporary marketable products. ACP has played vital role in reviving the craft skills that were on the verge on extinction and opened the eyes of other organizations which followed the suit and embarked on similar projects. Due to fair wage, social benefit programs and healthy working environment, producers do not show any desire to discontinue working with us. The facilities provided by ACP has also given the craft producers bargaining point with the other private enterprises whenever they are asked to work for their business and thus compelling other organizations to introduce similar facilities for the welfare of the artisans. ACP has been successfully balancing its business priorities and social obligation for last twenty four years. Today ACP is proud to define itself as a socially oriented and commercially viable enterprise.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The founding members of ACP had the vision of an autonomous organization which could do business as well as work for the development of the craft workers. Their past experience also told them that training alone could hardly help promote handicraft production unless backed by an integrated support mechanism which includes, among others, supply of raw material, design, quality control and organized market outlets. This experience gave rise to a new concept of providing training emphasizing the up-gradation of existing basic skill of the producer through continuous on-the-job training which ultimately unleashed the full potential of the producers. The primary activities of the organization is to provide regular design, market, management and technical services to low income craft producers, primarily female that results in regular adequate wages to supplement family income and improve the overall standard of living .
About You
Organization:
• ASSOCIATION FOR CRAFT PRODUCERS
About You
First Name

Meera

Last Name

Bhattarai

Twitter
Facebook Profile
About Your Organization
Organization Name

• ASSOCIATION FOR CRAFT PRODUCERS

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Meera Bhattarai started her career at the early age of 20 at Nepal Women's organization managing the Women Organization's skill development section. There she noticed much of the local handicrafts were purchased by women political leaders who headed the organization. They had plenty of good will towards their lesser-privileged sisters in the villages, but little idea of how to promote and sell products. Meera had the vision of an autonomous organization that could do business as well as work for the development of the craft workers.
In 1984, with some donor support she organized Nepal Board of Directors (all individuals with sound experience in women and development) and founded Association for Craft Producers as non-profit organization with the basic objective of providing full cycle of services - design, technical, management and marketing - to low income craft producers.
She had benefited from her past experiences which illustrated the fact that an organization should be seen as a business entity promoting the interest of producers rather than political interest. The experience also told her that training alone could hardly help promote handicraft production unless backed by an integrated support mechanism which included, among others, supply of raw material, design, quality control and organized market outlets. This experience gave rise to new concept of providing training emphasizing the up-gradation of existing basic skill of producer through continuous on-the-job training which ultimately unleashed the full potential of the producers.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Women empowerment: Income earned from craft make a substantial contribution in the household of producers of ACP. A number of women are entirely dependent on their earnings from ACP to support the family. As a result of economic empowerment, they have gained more self confidence and been able to command greater degree of respect from their family - especially husband and in-laws. They have acquired sense of self worth. A Survey revealed that for 42% of the producers earning from ACP are their only source of income and for 37% it is as important as other source. Another significant finding is that if earning from ACP is deducted, 66% of them would fall below poverty line.

Self-development: Majority of ACP producers are involved in decision on their income and many decide by themselves. They are encouraged and became group representatives organizing small group of producers in their locality and managing the production, accounting, personnel and sourcing of raw material. Working in ACP has build up confidence in our producers as well as enhanced their management skill. There are instances where producers have moved ahead and became entrepreneurs involving deprived women in their communities
Long term relationship: Owing to the healthy working environment, fair wages and additional benefits, producers who join ACP show no desire to leave. It is evident from the fact that the number of producers has increased from 38 in 1984 to 1200 in 2006-07. ACP has some very good examples where the next generation are following the footsteps of the previous generations seriously.
Replication: ACP has gained very good reputation as a premier craft organization that is socially oriented and commercially viable. Our retail outlet ‘Dhukuti’ is very well known for quality products and has become a brand name in Kathmandu. Designs and displays at Dhukuti are immediately replicated.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101- 1,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Fait trade market consumes majority of our product. However, considering the scope in mainstream market, we will continue striving to penetrate in this untapped arena.
Besides fair wage, producers at ACP are entitled to Social Benefit Package Program. Some of these are direct-cash or indirect-social and educational activities for the welfare of the producers. Thus, ACP plans to continue these and increase the fund for the producers.
Decline in sales performance in the past few years have had adverse impact on the number of producers. Some the producer group have discontinued however some new ones have joined us in new product/ skill area. We currently have 1100 producers working with us. We will continue to encompass more unreached producers.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Financial constraints: ACP is a Self sustaining NGO. The profit from the sales goes back to the development of the organization and producer by way of social benefit schemes under Social benefit package Programme.
Decline in sales due to recession, escalating price of commodities and raw materials, frequent power cut and fuel shortage in country has huge impact in the production economy. This has resulted in decline in our sales performance. On the other hand, the wage of producers has been increased due to increasing living expenses. The present financial position of the organization urges us to take immediate steps to overcome the situation. At this crucial situation, it is a need to make a serious investment to address the situation even through support from the funding organizations.

Tell us about your partnerships

Our buyers are the major partners in our activity. Without their support we could not have achieved where we are today not gained sustainability. 70% of our sales are to fair trade customers. The relationship is not just limited to buying and selling. It is based on working for promoting Fair Trade and improving the livelihood of the grassroot artisans. We are bound together by mutual goal of bringing the change in the life of marginalized producers. For achieving this goal we have been working toward expanding ACP’s sales and strengthening ACP as an organization. The support through purchase of the crafts, design and market information, capacity development of the producers and the staffs.
ACP also has partnership with donor agencies. The initial three years of ACP was financially supported by the donor agencies. However ACP has been maintaining sustainability not only from financial standpoint but also in technical and human resource development from its fourth year. In 2003, we started addressing the challenges of second phase development which included centralizing the dyeing activities to resolve the quality problem and addressing the environmental concerns. This was a big project for our scale calling for huge investment in construction and equipment. Though we are self sustained we were not in the position to cover the total cost of this project on our own. So we turned to donors and in between four major donors and ourselves we were able to raise the fund for the projects.

Explain your selections

ACP is a Self sustaining NGO. It has been successful in balancing its business priorities and social obligations since establishment and is proud to define as a socially oriented and commercially viable enterprise. Profit from sales goes back to the development of organization and producer by way of social benefit schemes under Social benefit package Program which includes performance reward, education allowance, medical allowance, clothing allowance, household allowance, emergency allowance, foresight fund, paid maternity/ paternity leave etc.
Initially started with some donors support, ACP started taking care of all its expenses from the fourth year of its inception. To its credit ACP also paid back the loan amounting to $100,000 to Ford foundation which was taken for constructing the initial office cum workshop as per schedule. This is a significant achievement by any NGO operating in Nepal. Due to the credibility it was able to establish, ACP received a grant of $100,000 for cotton processing & dyeing and computerization project in year 2004.
Starting with just 5 full time staff members, 38 producers and three skill categories, ACP has grown to have 60 full time staff members, 1100 artisans (90% female), 22 skill categories and has expanded from a 4000 sq.ft rented space building to a 45,000 sq.ft spacious permanent facility. ACP sales have grown significantly from an insignificant amount in 1984 to Rs. 40 million in 1999/2000 and to Rs. 63.5 million in 2009/2010 (with the highest sales of Rs. 83.6 million in the year 2006/07).

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Market penetration: Sales performance is the base upon which the organization sustains. It has direct impact on our producers and their family. To improve this, there is a need to act more aggressively for market penetration. Market information and trend, capacity building of the producers and technical upgradation in the production comes under priority.
Relocation of Dhukuti: Dhukuti, our retail outlet is the pioneer handicraft shop in the area which has now evolved as a prime location for authentic Nepali crafts. Dhukuti has been contributing greatly towards the sustainability of ACP. It is the contact point for our institutional buyers and has a strong base of loyal customers, most of them being expatriates and upper middle class Nepalese families. Dhukuti has a strong brand image and has become the brand identity of ACP. The most important factor is while ACP total sales and export sales decreased by 40% and 24% respectively in the past three years (2007-09), total domestic sales and Dhukuti sales increased by 29% and 32% respectively.
However last year (2009/10) Dhukuti’s sales declined by 4% and it continue. The major reason behind this has been due to unavailability of parking space at Dhukuti. The shoppers had been parking their vehicle on the roadside but with implementation of traffic regulations, lack of parking has made shopping at Dhukuti an ordeal for customers Thus, relocation of Dhukuti to another developing area with ample parking facility is ACP’s urgent priority.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Restricted access to new markets

SECONDARY

Lack of skills/training

TERTIARY

Lack of access to information and networks

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Financial constraints, lack of management skills and access to market information and technology are the major hindrances that restricted the marginalized producers from access to market. The basic skills they possess alone do not equip them to stand out in the market. In this backdrop ACP has provided vital support to the producers by helping them produce their craft adapting contemporary designs, upgrading their skills, providing access to technology and timely market information on design and trends. ACP also provides them with necessary raw materials and continuously strive to find markets for their produce. It has helped them preserve their skills, made them competent, discouraged migration in search of alternatives and supported significantly in their households.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

SECONDARY

Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

TERTIARY

Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Income from ACP plays significant role in the household economy of producers. With the decline in sales, it is becoming difficult to provide regular work to the producers and maintain the sustainability of ACP. Thus, our current priority is to be able to provide regular work and services to the existing producers. In addition to this, we also plan to increase our outreach to producers by encompassing the unreached small and marginalized producers. As a Fair trade organization, ACP has been adhering to the Fair trade principles and proactively adopted fair and best practices. Thus, promotion of Fair trade through advocacy and awareness activities to similar organizations and institutions is our commitment to the make the Fair trade movement successful.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

NGOs/Nonprofits, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Our buyers, especially in the Fair trade networks are partners. They have supported in socio-economic upliftment of the producers and promotion of Fair trade. Likewise, INGOs have supported in establishing ACP and its development projects like computerization, central cotton processing and dyeing facility. They have been instrumental in upgrading the skills of our workforce through expertise assistance in different areas like, dyeing, design, marketing, management etc.

We have partnered with University of Notre Dame, USA, National College of Art and Design, Ireland and University of Alberta, Canada in the areas of design, retail management etc. Of these, our partnership with University of Notre Dame for product development is regular annual event.