Artisans in crisis
Moradabad, India is renowned for its brass artistry and has carved a niche for its enchanting brass work across the world. Like many other artforms, this artistic tradition has been passed down through generations. Currently, more than half of the city’s population of 700,000 people are engaged in the traditional brass handicrafts industry for their livelihoods.
But this industry has long been plagued with inequitable practices that cripple the artisans; low wages, exploitation by exporters, and the need to self-finance expensive raw materials to complete orders. In the process, many fall victim to bad debt and shop closure. Left with few options, they must diversify beyond Moradabad’s signature brass crafts.
Artisan’s livelihoods are endangered as the heritage of brass handicrafts fades.
Reshaping the exporter-artisan relationship
In 1986, after six years witnessing the struggles of artisans first hand, Samuel Masih established Noah’s Ark International Exports. He wanted to change the foundation of the exporter-artisan relationship from fear, to trust in an effort to raise the artisans out of poverty and preserve their livelihood.
Noah’s Ark is the first and only Fair Trade certified exporter in Moradabad (member of WFTO and FTF India).
For over 30 years, the company has supported artisans and their families by:
- paying fair wages which are 10-15% higher than local standards
- long-term business investment and collaboration
- driving health and education initiatives
- profit-sharing with artisans
A hybrid business model
Noah's Ark is made up of two parts:
- A Fair Trade for-profit business, (Noah's Ark International Exports Pvt. Ltd) creates a sustainable income for artisans through the export of handmade crafts to international buyers.
- A not-for-profit, (Noah’s Ark Handicrafts & Artisan Welfare Society) is funded almost entirely by the for-profit, that provides health, education, clean water, profit sharing and capacity building initiatives directly to artisans, their families, and factory workers.
1. Noah’s Ark will continue to work with the marginalized producers, building their capacity. This means helping them establish their own workshops, so that they can stand on their own and break free from the cycle of poverty.
2. Noah’s Ark will work to improve the working conditions of its existing artisans by educating them about fair working conditions, health and safety measures and work ethics. Grants and training are provided to help the artisans achieve this.
3. Noah’s Ark is committed to the sustainability of artisans and ensuring they get regular work.
4. Noah’s Ark will be very transparent in its working. If anyone requests any records or access to speak directly with artisans, we will arrange for this to be provided. Staff and artisans will - wherever applicable - be involved in decision making. We will also make sure our suppliers are transparent with their workers.
5. Noah’s Ark will invest part of its profit in projects related to children's education, clean drinking water, capacity building, sanitation and health for artisans, staff and community.
6. Noah’s Ark will ensure that a fair business model is adopted. This includes fair wages, paying an advance to the artisans and ensuring artisans/workers are trained to supply quality merchandise in time to the buyers.
7. Noah’s Ark will ensure that there is no discrimination of any kind. Special attention is paid to ensuring workers have freedom of speech and association and women are treated equally to men, including pay.
8. Noah’s Ark is strictly against Child Labor and will make sure that no children are used in production and will not buy the goods from such artisans where child labor is observed.
9. Noah’s Ark is committed to networking with other organizations sharing similar business objectives.
10. Noah’s Ark will promote Fair Trade through accurate information on its website and raise awareness amongst its staff and workers.
11. Noah’s Ark will use and train its artisans to use environment friendly production techniques and sustainable raw materials. The quantity of packaging materials and plastics used every year will be gradually reduced.