By Nada Moselhy
It is hard for many Egyptian artisans and craftsmen to keep selling original handcrafted goods in today’s competitive market. The Egyptian market has been filled with cheaper Chinese products for many years, an obstacle to survival for handmade Egyptian products.
Fair Trade Egypt (FTE) is a non-profit organisation with a showroom in Zamalek offering a place to sell a variety of disadvantaged artisans’ handcrafted goods. All items in the store are manufactured in Egypt by artisans located in provinces across in the country, including Fayoum, Sinai, Aswan, and Cairo.
The philosophy of FTE is to keep these crafts alive in the Egyptian market, to help prevent their extinction and, more importantly, to financially support these artisans by providing a way to sell their goods.
FTE works as a link between artisans and buyers, presenting the goods at fair prices and making sure that the artisans receive fair wages and work in a healthy environment.
“Our main aim is to help the artisans we deal with to be independent, it is a way to empower them. We provide a place for their products and then train them untill they reach the point where they are able to provide marketing for their own business,” Ahmed Ashmawy, producer relations and development officer at FTE, said.
The NGO is a member of the cooperation of Fair Trade in Africa (COFTA) and World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which abide by 10 basic fair trade principals such as fair prices, no discrimination among different members, and no child labor. The organisations also provide capacity building assistance for producers.
FTE describes themselves as “An alternative trade movement” that aims to provide the help and assistance artisans need to keep their products competitive among other ones in the market.
“We provide the producers with different courses, capacity building training, ways to reach distribution channels, and help them to develop their products in order to have a constant income. In the end we want them to go out and open new markets for their work without depending on our help,” Ashmawy added.
The showroom offers products such as pottery from Fayoum, Bedouin rugs, and recycled paper goods.
FTE was founded in 1998 and is currently working with more than 2500 artisans. It collaborates with other NGOs to educate different groups of artisans and increase political awareness and medical support.