Traditional handicrafts are a source of income in many Latin American countries. Ayni Bolivia is a fair-trade organisation working with 250 families of artisan producers from all over Bolivia, developing their skills and abilities to create high-quality products. Since 2002, Ayni Bolivia of La Paz has specialised in selling traditional clothes and toys that have been developed in the poorest native communities.
In addition to paying its artisans above the legal minimum salary, it also guarantees absolute transparency in sales conditions and modalities. Ayni Bolivia is also committed to the sustainability of its business relationships with artisans. Finally, particular attention is paid to the safety of working conditions and environmental protection (recycling, natural dyes, saving water and energy).
In 2010, Ayni Bolivia was involved in the ‘New Hope’ project, which aimed to commercialise small traditional Indian puppets knitted by the Aymara artisans of El Alto, on the outskirts of the capital La Paz. The United States was the target market, but marketing toys in North America is not easy due to the many safety standards that must be met. By complying with safety standards, drawing up a 3-year marketing plan and rationalising production to meet expected demand, the aim of the project was to benefit the Bolivian artisans.
The TDC supported this project financially with an amount of 12,807 euros for two years. This project guaranteed jobs and a stable income for about 20 artisan families who made the small coloured puppets. How did it work? By facilitating access to the American market they were able to double the annual volumes, which in turn secured the future production, income and extra means for all the families who live off this activity.
In terms of results, the cooperative has been able to respect the quality and safety standards by obtaining a certification. In 2010, Ayni Bolivia became a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), developing its activities in full respect of the principles and values of fair trade. Unfortunately, this was not enough to penetrate international markets. As for online sales, they have increased slightly. High prices also meant that an increase in wholesale orders was not possible.
Bolivia is known for its high level of violence and machismo towards women. Working together in cooperatives such as Ayni Bolivia, learning and contributing to the family income have become essential factors towards their emancipation and an enhanced role in their communities.