Noah's Ark from India
is the artisan in the spotlight this week
In the 1980s there were no fair trade opportunities for local artisans in Moradabad, India. Skilled craftspeople were routinely taken advantage of by export companies operating in the area, and living wages were nearly impossible to come by. Local businessman Samuel Masih saw an opportunity to build a business that would reward artisans with fair wages while exporting beautiful handicrafts. He started Noah's Ark in his home in 1986 with the goal of creating new economic opportunity in the community.
Two years later, Noah's Ark entered the world stage with its first large order from a florist in the U.S. Soon other large orders began flooding in, attracting the attention of the Tear Fund, Artisanat-SEL, Goed Werk, TEAM, and Oxfam Australia, which contributed to even more growth. Today, Noah's Ark works with more than 100 artisan groups involving more than 600 people in Moradabad, Saharanpur, Nagina, Jaipur, Sari Tarin, Delhi, Hapur, Firozabad and Amritsar, paying 10-15% more than other companies in those areas. In 2000, the Noah's Handicrafts and Welfare Society was founded to benefit artisan welfare, children's education, community development, and social work.
Artisan Anwar Saleem, age 27, is a second-generation lantern and lamp maker. His parents died when he was only 18, leaving him responsible for his three younger siblings. He went to work for his uncle, learning the craft of coloring and lacquering lanterns. Unfortunately, his uncle was unable to pay him a living wage and the family suffered. After a couple of years, Anwar was able find employment with Noah's Ark. The fair wages Anwar received turned his family's life around. As he explains, "While working directly with Noah's Ark I was able to save good enough money to do my family responsibilities, then they encouraged me to do some manufacturing work from my home. I got married and also I was able to do marriages of my sisters." Anwar now has his own workshop with seven regular employees and 15 contracted artisans.