Nairobi, 29th October 2014: Undugu Fair Trade is providing Jua Kali artisans in the crafts and art industry with a global platform to sell their produce to Europe, Asia, pacific rim, and the United States by linking the artisans to buyers at a time when the artists are struggling find markets for their wares despite having quality products.
In 2012, the informal sector was estimated to have been employing 10.5 million people. This comprises of small businesses and the Jua Kali sector, which together account for 82.5 per cent of the country’s self-employed, according to the Economic Survey, 2013. This sector has, however, shied away from the export industry because of insufficient information about the overseas market, and its inability to finance the exports alongside the challenge of meeting strict and costly regulations governing exports from the country.
This combination of challenges has hampered the ambition of many artisans in successfully undertaking international business, impeding their vision to export. With a clear understanding of the ingredients that make it difficult for artisans to embrace the global market, Undugu Fair trade is now providing a comprehensive solution to aid such ventures to reap from the export market.
Undugu Fair Trade, a joint venture between Undugu Society of Kenya and The Awendo Foundation, was established in 2010 to provide marketing support to disadvantaged artisans and producers, facing market access challenges, who have the potential to positively change their lives by exploiting their crafts skills and materials found in their environment. The company targets Jua Kali artisans from all over the country.
“The Jua Kali industry is one very promising industry with rich resources waiting to be tapped into,” said Mr. Ture Boru, Undugu's Business Development and Strategy Advisor. “When approached by an artisan wishing to market their produce through us, we get as much market information as possible about the artisan’s product from the market. This is done through sharing product information with our network of international customers and support partners to establish the product demand as well as get feedback on areas of possible improvement” said Mr. Ture
“We then go ahead and share the gathered information with the artisans who make their products in line with what is in demand with the support of our practical capacity building solutions. From there, it is upon us to facilitate packing and shipping of the products in line with the customers’ specifications. Since production is linked to the demand of the customers, artisans only produce what the market needs thereby avoiding the risk of dead stocks,” said Mr. Ture.
Evans Some, a soapstone artisan in Kisii, is one such artisan benefiting from Undugu’s export market platform. For Evans, Undugu is a business partner that empowers local artisans economically and provides a market for their produce. The logistics of how his produce gets across the borders are the least of Mr. Some's worries, as he does not have to be involved with the regulatory laws governing the export of the produce, yet he still reaps the benefits from the foreign sales of his items. Further, Undugu pre-finances order production in line with their fair trade principles, shielding artisans from the stress of order financing especially in the face of the prevailing exorbitant interest rates.
“I am a parent of four, with two children in high school,” said Mr. Some. “Through Undugu, I am now able to pay my children’s school fees comfortably and the best part about it all is that I am not restricted to just sell my produce to Undugu, and therefore make extra money by selling some of my produce locally.”
Undugu exports the artisans’ produce every month, although this also depends on the clients' needs and order seasons. For Evans, he is able to export at least three to four of his soapstone products a month.
The crafts are exported by Undugu to clients based in countries like United States, Sweden, Austria, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, and Taiwan among others. The company is currently working with over 60 Jua Kali artisans who own crafts businesses that support employment of more than 800 people.