Unlike the production-line type approach in big factories, each African artisan sees production through from start to finish. This provides them with a sense of ownership and responsibility that enriches the quality of each piece. To consumers, it translates to a higher cost per item but an exponential increase in value. The machine-made novelty items of Chinese manufacture simply can’t compare.
Sweatshop-type factories are famous for their long hours, low wages and abuses of labor laws. In contrast, when I visit the East African workshops where artisans produce the purses, jewelry, clothing and home products for Harkiss Designs, I see groups of women working companionably, sharing conversations and laughter, and taking personal pride in their work. They are proud to be contributing to the economic future of their families and their communities.
The world is becoming increasingly aware of the critical importance of sustainability and low-impact manufacturing. Chinese factories leave massive carbon footprints. In contrast, East African craft co ops, by repurposing materials and working primarily by hand, are making a positive imprint.
That is why I choose to work with the Harkiss Designs artisans of East Africa to help improve their economic outlook from the grassroots level up. The beauty of the land, the profusion of sustainable raw materials and the traditional skills of these people are flourishing into a better future for the artisans and their families. It is a slower process than building big factories but one well worth the investment.