Ten Thousand Villages Supports Artisans in Developing Countries – And You Can, Too

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Photo: Ten Thousand Villages. Phontong Handicrafts Cooperative Marshlands Scarf, Laos.
Photo: Ten Thousand Villages. Marshlands Scarf, Phontong Handicrafts Cooperative, Laos.

Want to support artisans around the world but aren’t sure how?

Saturday marks the start of Fair Trade Month, and Ten Thousand Villages—one of the world’s largest fair trade organizations—is celebrating its 70th anniversary of championing makers worldwide. The social enterprise creates income-earning opportunities for 20,000 artisans in 30 developing countries by establishing a sustainable market for their handmade products in North America.

Since 1946, Ten Thousand Villages has been establishing long-term buying relationships in places where skilled artisans lack opportunities for stable income. Grown from the trunk of founder Edna Ruth Byler’s car to a network of 75 retail stores throughout the United States, Ten Thousand Villages sells jewelry, home decor, art and personal accessories made by artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Online, customers can shop for bags, scarves, kitchen goods, home decor and more and learn about the artisans they’re supporting through every sale. Purchase a ceramic pitcher, handcrafted in Cameroon from local clay, and read about the Prescraft cooperative behind the product. A handcrafted silk scarf from Laos comes from the Phontong Handicrafts Cooperative, which helps artisans with wood carving, basket weaving, silk production and cattle raising.

The organization says product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. In 2015, these makers earned $7.5 million in sustainable income through Ten Thousand Villages. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2016. For more information, visit tenthousandvillages.com.