One of the most rewarding parts of blogging is meeting amazing and inspirational individuals and companies on-line that are proof that, contrary to what the news would have us believe, not all in the world is bad… not all of us are out there to exploit our planet’s resources and disadvantaged people for our own selfish profit… but instead that there of so many people out there who are choosing every day to make their lives ‘meaningful’ and courageously live by their values, work for others and put their energy and passion into building a better world.
One of such people is the founder of ‘Artisans in the Andes’, Canadian-born Tracey Krause, who along with her family, took a ‘leap into the unknown’ and broke off from the tight grip of the North-American lifestyle and moved to Ecuador in search of a richer spirituality and a more sustainable way of life devoted to working with local families and cooperatives in their development and environmental preservation efforts. (you can read more about Tracey in her blog: The Earth Friendly Family)
Tracey set up Artisans from the Andes, and My Wholesale Boutique, which are on-line shops that sell eco-friendly, fairly traded jewellery and handbags made by Ecuadorian artisans who use local sustainable materials.
What I love about how Tracey describes her work with the Artisans, is the huge respect she has for them and for their craftsmanship, which in some cases has been passed down through centuries. So many foreigners who come across such artists in developing countries simply see them as easy targets for exploitation and shamelessly steal their work. Tracey works among them, gives them a voice, supports them in their efforts to educate themselves and more importantly offers them a channel through which they can sell their craft, receive the recognition they deserve and the fair remuneration that they need to keep creating and feed their families.
Something else that really stands out as well is the use of eco-friendly sustainable materials, like tagua (vegetable ivory), acai, pambil, achira, leather and cotton in their products. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Brazil Nut producers from the northern Amazon region of Bolivia, and have seen first hand the dilemma that thousands of families who live in the forest face: and undeniable love for nature conflicted by the tremendous pressure to provide for their families, which in too many cases results in the devastating decision to cut down the trees for their wood, or in order to plant crops or keep cattle.
The only way in which we can help tilt the balance of this equation back in favour of this great forest (that we all depend on) is to offer real alternatives to those who live in it. Alternatives such as the fair trade sale of nuts, seeds, honey, rubber etc. Tracey’s business model is an excellent example of what and how this can be achieved.
But, it goes beyond that… look at how beautiful the products are! And the best news is that Tracey has been super generous and sent me this beautiful Into the Blue Tagua necklace and earrings to offer as a GIVEAWAY. Follow this link to find more information about the necklace and follow the instructions on the bar on the side or below the to enter.
Here’s a bit more about tagua and the rainforest from Tracey:
Tagua has very similar properties to elephant ivory, with the difference, that a tagua palm produces the same amount of “ivory” is one year as a female elephant in her whole life. Often called vegetable ivory, tagua in its natural state is a ivory white, takes dye brilliantly and is hard, light and carveable.
Tagua nuts can be harvested by hand without harming the tree, unlike obtaining ivory from elephants. Tagua grows well here in Ecuador, its a smallish palm that grows as an important part of the rainforest. When newly ripened, the nuts are a food source for the animals of the forest. Once harvested, and dried in the sun, the nuts become very hard, like ivory. Tagua is increasingly important to the rainforest in a more subtle way. The rainforest is inclreasingly under attack as it land that could be put to other uses. You may have heard of Yusani, a formerly protected, large rainforest park in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian government has recently decided that it best serves the people of Ecuador to open this pristine land, home to indigenous tribes, to oil exploration. Outside of parks, the situation is worse for the rainforest as people struggle to earn a living and move out of the poverty that has affected the indigenous people in Ecuador for centuries. Tagua grows as a natural part of the rainforest, its nuts can be picked sustainably without damage to the tree or the rainforest. When local indigenous peoples get involved with picking the nuts, drying them and processing them, they also invest in a sustainable livelihood.
From what I understand, tagua can be up to five times as profitable as clearing the land and using it for banana or other types of plantations. When people have a regular paycheck, they are more likely to preserve the rainforest and prevent the degradation of forests into farmland. Through selling tagua, my family is involved in helping to preserve the rainforest, standing with Ecuadorian poor to protect their land while respecting and promoting their right to earn an honest and decent living. I love that this work aligns with our values and key concerns about the environment.
We really applaud what Tracey and her family are trying to achieve and encourage everyone to visit her on-line shops and BUY lots of her amazing products, and don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY!!!