Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A fair trade story from Japan

Rie Ozawa of Japan has started a business selling Rwandan crafts. Not only is running the business building wealth for herself, but it is also helping the craft makers in Rwanda.

Fair trade is the concept behind this business model, as craft makers and farmers in the under-developed world are provided a fair wage for their work. In the case of Rie Ozawa, she purchases the crafts from a co-operative in Rwanda and sells them in shoppes throughout Japan.

From Asahi, writer Takeshi Kamiya tells us more about fair trade in Japan.

Younger generations of Japanese have long been criticized as being self-absorbed navel-gazers, never looking beyond Japan and lacking a spirit of challenge.

But Rie Ozawa, a 38-year-old mother of two boys, is not among them.

Ozawa is president of Ruise B, a company she established in Shizuoka in early 2009 to import and sell "agaseke"--traditional handmade sisal hemp baskets in Rwanda--and other basketry.

The finely woven products are sold in 50 outlets, including department stores and interior decor shops, across Japan.

Last month, the company sold 370 agaseke and other baskets.

"I am happy (when I see one basket sell) because that allows me to order one more from the (Rwandan) women," she said.

She first came across the lidded gourd-shaped baskets, which come in shades such as red, white, black and natural hemp, at an African festival and trade show in Yokohama in May 2008.

Ozawa, a native of Shizuoka, opened up a shop to sell products from her family's furniture company after graduating from an interior design professional school. She decided that she wanted to add African goods to the store's lineup.

She was mesmerized by the agaseke, which were originally used to carry gifts to royal families in the country. The basket's motif is used on the Rwandan national emblem and bank notes.

"They were exceedingly beautiful, both in shape and design," Ozawa recalled.

No comments: