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Update from the Field: Nest Travels to Ethical Handcraft Partners in Africa

Photo credit: Sara Otto. A weaver from MitiMeth in Nigeria works with water hyacinth reeds.

After two years of being grounded to protect the health and safety of the Nest team and our partners, Nest’s in-house compliance team, which supports the implementation of our Ethical Handcraft program, has resumed travel to work in person with our artisan partners around the world.

To date, 167 supply chains, representing 142 artisan enterprises across 27 countries, have been reached through Nest’s Ethical Handcraft program. This translates into more than 51,000 artisans being impacted by improved workplace policies and procedures that address key aspects of their economic and social well-being, such as pay and safety. And, it is estimated that the positive effects of these improved practices indirectly impact as many as 210,248 individuals.

When the world locked down in March 2020, Nest’s programming teams were grounded indefinitely. As weeks turned into months, it became clear that our in-person work with artisan partners would have to take a different shape. Nest’s teams worked quickly to develop virtual implementation plans that would enable us to continue our activities from a distance to avoid major lapses in program delivery.

With the Nest team back in the field, we are able to connect with inspiring artisans like Achenyo, founder of MitiMeth, a weaving enterprise in Nigeria. During the Nest assessment of her supply chain, she shared that she founded her company, in part, to care for her local environment. This includes harvesting water hyacinth, an invasive species that is threatening bodies of freshwater that farmers rely on. Historically, these plants have been removed and burned to destroy them, but her weavers have learned to dry the water hyacinth fibers and turn them into beautiful handwoven products, like baskets.

Over the last few weeks, the Nest team has completed on-site assessments with artisan enterprises in Rwanda, Kenya, and Nigeria as part of their participation in the Artisan Accelerator program, as well as supply chains producing products for major retailers like West Elm.

During another assessment with a Rwandan-based weaving cooperative, we connected with Everline, a Burundian refugee who has been earning an income weaving baskets from her home in the Mahama Refugee Camp. Although resources and opportunities are limited within the camp, she shared that the money she is earning from her weaving will help her afford a necessary eye care procedure.

“Returning to the field has solidified the need to conduct these assessments in person rather than remotely,” said Sara Otto, Nest’s Senior Director of Compliance and European Lead. “It’s critical to visit these sites in person so that we can see and understand the full scope of work being done.”

The Ethical Handcraft program is core to Nest’s mission of advancing gender equity and economic inclusion through craft. Among supply chains that have participated in this program, Nest has measured a staggering +2,200% increase in the number of businesses that provide and maintain written employment policies around ethical practices for decentralized workers, the majority of whom are women. Nest provides templates for these policies to participants that address workplace safety, fair wages, as well as harassment and abuse.

The Nest team is grateful to resume travel to continue these assessments in person to ensure we are accurately and efficiently evaluating participating supply chains in the best interest of their workers. Over the last year, eight artisan enterprises—including Studio Coppre, Tribal Textiles, and Sarita Handa—have earned Nest certification (or have been recertified) for one or more of their supply chains. This equates to hundreds of new products that can carry the Nest Seal of Ethical Handcraft at major retail locations.

Returning to the field to conduct on-site assessments will enable more supply chains to participate in the Ethical Handcraft program and work towards Nest certification, which qualifies products produced in production lines to bear the Nest Seal of Ethical Handcraft in market.