By Wadzie Mutiwanyuka and Gail Mawocha
Invest in a Woman, Invest in a Community!
Mustard Seed Africa (MSA) is a social enterprise which focuses on income-generating projects for women at the grassroots level. Believing in their potential to improve the quality of life in their communities, the organisation concentrates on handcraft development to assist artisans to earn a regular income. The organisation was founded in 2010 after working with various artisan groups and realising the need to focus on all levels of the value chain to enable rural women to receive better earnings.
Proceeds from sales are channelled directly into school fees accounts or towards other small-scale projects. MSA’s motto is “Invest in a woman, invest in a community”. After agriculture, handcraft is the second biggest income-generating opportunity for women at the grassroots level. Handcraft enables artisans to work from home and tend to their crops and households whilst using traditional skills passed on from previous generations to empower themselves financially. MSA bridges the gap between rural women and potential markets by working on contemporary design techniques which in turn lead to market demand and the opening of sales channels both locally and abroad.
MSA assists female handicraft producers in product development, design and marketing. A major challenge for Handcraft Artisans is incorporating fresh ideas into their products and finding markets for these. They are often caught up in a cycle of trying to sell their products and earn a living with little or no time to focus on design inspiration and innovation. This need resulted in the development of The Rural to Ramp Project which is a Craft Couture project. It focuses on enabling international and local designers to develop new products with handcraft artisans whilst showcasing skills and incorporating new techniques and trends. The crafts which are produced through this platform are ‘African by inspiration and contemporary in design’.
MSA also works with rural women to develop business and marketing know-how. Workshops which include costing, branding, marketing, administration and operations take place to ensure that rural women are empowered with skills to produce and trade efficiently. Communities are based in Domboshava, Hopley, Tafara and Mabvuku and as afar afield as Mvuma, Chivi and Lupane. The organisation is developing a network of handcraft producers in Swaziland and Uganda and promotes the work of artisans in all of these countries.
The MSA retail outlet currently stocks handicrafts made by over 2000 rural women in Zimbabwe and beyond and supports them by telling their narrative. Heart-warming stories of hope are weaved in Gogo Olive’s ‘The Long Knit to Freedom’ and the adorable knitted animal “Shamwari’s” are a hit with little ones. This is an ideal place to pick up unique and tasteful affordable gifts. Brands include the irresistible Shelela body balm range, Zienzele baskets, Petallili teas, Baobab powder, Marula oil, Mustard Seed outwear and the ever-popular Kampala Fair dress range. Other popular products at the retail outlet comprise of beaded jewellery, knitwear, upcycled bags and accessories.
Photographs by Linette Frewin and Laurie Macpherson
Copyright: Ndeipi Magazine, Issue 103 http://ndeipi.co.zw