Bangladesh Artisans

79 - PhilippinesWe periodically receive questions from customers such as:

  • Why does Ten Thousand Villages buy products from the specific groups you work with?
  • Why do you import from those particular countries and regions?
  • Are you open to adding new groups from new countries?

Ten Thousand Villages’ mission is to create “opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.” This drives everything we do, and we will not compromise our commitment to our Fair Trade principles.

Many of the relationships we have with artisan groups have been in place for decades. Quite a number of them were established by, or in partnership with, Mennonite Central Committee, which is involved in relief and development work around the world – often through job creation and skills development programs. These efforts sometimes result in businesses that are looking for markets for their products, and Ten Thousand Villages is a natural partner.
In an ideal world, Ten Thousand Villages would be adding new artisan partners all the time. The reality, however, is that we can only do so as demand increases, because we’re committed to forging and maintaining long-term relationships with our partners. Our goal is to continue making consistent purchases from our partners every year. We aim to buy at least as much as we purchased the year before, and we also try to avoid large one-time increases that we won’t be able to sustain in subsequent years.

Just as Ten Thousand Villages strives for steady growth in order to ensure a healthy future for our organization, we want our partners to have a reliable and consistent source of income, so they can plan for their futures and invest in developing their businesses. They already have to deal with enough uncertainty.

If the time comes when the artisan groups we currently work with cannot keep up with North American demand, we’ll definitely be out looking for more. Many of our partners, however, actually have excess capacity and a desire to grow their businesses and increase their impact on their local communities – and we must always remember that they are our first priority. We will not add new groups in cases where it would lead to reduced purchases from longstanding partners.

The needs are great in the countries where Ten Thousand Villages operates, as well as in many other regions. You only need to read a few news headlines to understand the extent of the issues. It’s easy to imagine citizens living in dozens of countries affected by conflict, drought or corruption who would benefit from opportunities to use their skills and sell products to countries that are more privileged.

Each one of us can play a part in creating demand for products from marginalized and disadvantaged producers around the world. Seeking out Fair Trade products is one simple and tangible way we can do this.


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