Pay It Forward Friday-Aid to Artisans

Sep 2013
It’s always part of the focus when I travel to seek out and meet local artisans.  There’s something to be said about the feelings of excitement and anticipation that lead up to the experience. The crafts on display are rich in culture and usually have an interesting story behind them. I remember visiting the Village of Ponchampally in Hyderabad and being educated on the natural dying process their fabrics undergo.  [See: Craftsmen of Natural Color: Ikats in India]  The artisans have a brilliant way of maximizing raw materials and creating unique masterpieces.

Although these handicrafts are brimming with luster and novelty, developing countries have seen an unsettling number of artisans who can no longer sustain their livelihoods.


“According to the UN, over the past 30 years, the number of Indian artisans has decreased by 30%, indicating the need to re-invest in artisans to safeguard history, culture and an important source of livelihood.”

India has one of the most diverse and ancient traditions of handmade products, and its handicrafts industry is an important economic and cultural asset. Millions of Indians still rely on indigenous modes of production. These craftspeople are the backbone of the non-farm rural economy, and more often than not are struggling for sustenance.

Many non-profits and organizations have stepped up to create economic opportunities for artisan groups all over the world. One non-profit organization in particular, Aid to Artisans, has gone above and beyond in their efforts. Founded in Boston in 1976, the mission started as a simple way of giving local artisans assistance in selling their products and providing them with capital to sustain their business. Based in Washington DC, ATA has raised the standard of living in more than 110 countries.

Their Market Readiness Training Program {featured in the video above}is an interactive 4 1/2 day immersion into the business of selling.  As someone who has exhibited at Gift Shows around the country, I know this invaluable experience gives artisans an expertise of firsthand learning which will help them sustain their businesses.

Incorporating the idea of shopping for fare trade products when you travel is something I encourage you all to do.  Here’s a chance to shop when you get home. Give them a piece of your time and I can promise you the reward will be lasting.

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