Skills and secure markets through fair trade

A differently-able woman in Kathmandu making bags from felt

Differently-able Bimala BK in Kathmandu making bags from felt. Photo by: Prerana Marasini/Oxfam

“I earned NPR 5000 in the last month, just by making the right use of my mornings and evenings.”
Shovita Shakya

Prerana Marasini

Shovita Shakya from Bungmati, Lalitpur had worked only on her farm land until recently where she grew rice and corn but she now carves beautiful handicrafts, which are sold at fair price at secure markets.

“I have learnt to carve different pieces that are used in a typical wooden Nepali window,” says Shovita adding, “There are nine different designs involved, and I can make all of them.” Shovita learned the skills while attending a three-month training provided by Oxfam through its Fair Trade Project. 

“We had been training people in the past too, but this time we were able to provide them a set of tools, with which they could work from their homes as well,” says Mani Ratna Bajracharya owner of the Bungmati Kastha Kala Fair Trade Group who has trained so far 22 people through Oxfam’s support. 

“The set contains about 32 different tools needed for carving,” added Mani Ratna’s wife Dev Maya Bajracharya who helps her husband in the business. “Although they knew how to carve, in absence of the tools, they were not able to continue working from their homes; and we were not in a position to provide them the materials either.”

Oxfam in Nepal has been implementing Sustainable Livelihoods Support for Earthquake Affected Families in Nepal in partnership with Fair Trade Group Nepal (FTGN) since January 2016. The project is supported by Oxfam Australia, Oxfam Intermon and Oxfam Solidarite to improve livelihood and economic opportunities of 4,500 (60% women) earthquake affected families in five earthquake-affected districts—Sindhupalchowk, Nuwakot, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur. As of June 2017, the project has reached to 1547 earthquake affected households and formed 62 Fair Trade Producer groups (Bungmati Kastha Kala Fair Trade Group is one of them). These producer groups get support to conduct training on pottery, hand knitting, tailoring, weaving, wood carving, making exotic products from felt, and processing ginger, lokta (special kind of Nepali paper), and leather.

In wood carving, the skill of trainees range from no prior knowledge to some fair knowledge, and the training module is customized in a way to meet their demands and needs. “We guarantee that the trained people get their products sold at fair prices,” said Bajracharya. Most of these products are sold in local markets where they are further processed with painting and packaging, after which they are sold in national and international markets.

“I made NPR 5000 in the last month, just by making the right use of my mornings and evenings,” Shovita shared, who gets up at 4 am in the morning.

Eighteen-year-old Roshan Thapa from Bhaisepati, Lalitpur had a difficult childhood who could not continue his studies. He worked at a restaurant and was indulged in smoking and drinking. He now carves full time and makes good income.

“I earned NPR 15,000 in the last month,” he said with a smile adding, “I bought clothes and also hung out with friends.” Roshan says this skill has also helped him stay away from bad habits such as drinking and smoking. “I think I will be able to start my own business in the future.”

Once the trained people start producing the sellable products, the project links them to the member organizations of FTGN and local buyers so that they get a secure market to sell their products. Until now, the project has supported 1, 267 (997 women) producers by providing them equipments and encouraging them to start their production.