October 22, 2007

A Report from the Field: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Liz Wald, founder of our partner company Economic Development Imports, will be writing from Bishkek Kyrgyzstan for the next week, where she's giving a workshop to potential exporters on how to work with the U.S. market. The workshop is sponsored by the Central Eurasian Leadership Academy (CELA) and brings together artisans from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. (Kyrgyzstan is west of China, North of India and Northeast of Afghanistan, just in case you weren't sure!)

This region is known for anything and everything felt and embroidered - from hats to clothes to change purses.

Liz, who is responsible for many of the African products sold on our site, commented that Central Asia is similar to Africa in the sense that every country is landlocked and has its own export laws. She also notes that the people are very proud and do not like discuss their troubles. "This issue arose when I asked about the ‘stories” behind the products or workshops, i.e., do they support women in some way or help the sick or needy or anything along these lines. Their response was “is this important?” Even getting them to elaborate on the history of a product or the design tradition is proving difficult. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that marketing is not a strong suit of former Soviet Republics.”

We don't know if we'll carry product from this region or not, but we wanted to inform you of Liz's trip, as One World Projects and its partners often travel in search of new artisan groups who share our vision: to help artisans in some of the world's poorest countries improve their lives and communities through fair trade, and in an environmentally- and socially-responsible manner.

Check out Liz's blog for a full report!

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