“A Fair Trade handicrafts business for the upliftment of artisans and community since 1986.” is its strapline – Noah`s Ark is a Fair Trade handicraft marketing organisation.

It was founded before the concept of “Fair Trade” existed in Moradabad and their objective was to eliminate exporters taking advantage of artisans and their crafts.
They provide regular employment to around 500 people, run evening schools for children in remote villages and help artisans to build and establish their own workshops.

A little about Moradabad…
Moradabad is just over 100 miles east of New Delhi (about five hours by road) and situated on the banks of the Ramganga river.
It`s a relatively small city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, but recognised as India’s capital of hand-crafted metalwork. The state capital is Lucknow.
In fact, the city is known as Pital Nagri (“Brass City”).
Incredibly, its handicrafts industry accounts for more than 40% of total handicraft exports from India.

Moradabad city has a population of approximately 900,000 and has a literacy rate of 59%.
Informally, the locals are refered to as Moradabadis.

The mission….
Noah’s Ark has been supporting and empowering talented artisans in India for over 30 years.
They work with multi-talented crafters, wood carvers, metal workers, paper makers, skilled & dextrous painters etc
This support makes a huge difference to the local populations spanning eight different Indian communities.
And this is only the beginning. Noah’s Ark is an expanding NGO which is always on the look-out for new craft techniques to develop.

Just as the Biblical Noah’s Ark saved the future of mankind,
their own philosophy is to ensure the future of traditional handicrafts in India at a time when commercialism has overtaken authenticity & originality.

They also seek to support the economic and social outlook of rural villages by encouraging them to use their cultural & traditional methods of production.

The artisans…
Most of the artisans are women, who benefit from the fact that they can work from home whilst maintaining their responsibilities for children & the home.
Noah’s Ark provides benefits such as a free education initiative that has helped 400 children to study .
They have also ensured access to healthcare for workers, artisans and their families.
A stitching school has been established where 24 women were trained to create products that Noah’s Ark sell on their behalf.
Workers are even supplied with fresh drinking water!

Artisan Mohammad Meeraj used to work in different Noah`s Ark workshops before owning his own alongside his 3 brothers.

His workshop is located on the ground floor of the family house. By international standards, his workshop is really basic.
He employs 6 other workers that are paid on a per piece rate.
They are paid 15-20% higher because of the fair trade standards set by Noah’s Ark.
Going forward, he wants to make his workshop a model for Fair Trade metal handicraft products.

Noah`s Ark is a Guaranteed Fair Trade member of WFTO. (World Fair Trade Organisation)

And the Founder…
Samuel Masih is the CEO and Founder. He has 30 years experience in the field of handicrafts.
He has grown Noah`s Ark into a successful, flourishing and inspiring creation that has transformed the lives of thousands of artisans over the years.
“Noah’s Ark was given that name because we can provide a kind of shelter for every kind of handicraft.” explains Samuel.

He goes on to say….

“My definition of fair trade is that it can provide work to the grassroot artisans and can give them better wages for better living conditions – cover their espenses like medical insurance, health and maybe education.
That is the definition of fair trade to me. We always try to give that facility to the grassroots artisans.”

Business principles…
Some of the organisation`s businesses principles state:

1. That Noah’s Ark will continue to work with the marginalised producers and will build their capacity, by helping them to establish their own workshop, so that they could stand on their own feet and come out of the poverty cycle.

2. The Noah’s Ark will try to improve the working condition of its existing artisans by educating them about Fair Working Condition & work ethics and helping them to achieve these by providing those grants & training.

3. Noah’s Ark will teach/guide the artisan about the health and safety measures.

4. That Noah’s Ark will work for sustainability of such artisans and make sure that artisan get regular work to adhere to Fair Trade principles.

5. That Noah’s Ark will be very transparent in its working. If anyone asks for any records or talk to artisans directly, they will make these available and will involve staff and artisans, wherever applicable, in decision making.

6. That Noah’s Ark will support & invest part of its profit in the projects related to Children education, Clean drinking water, Capacity building, Sanitation & Health for artisan, staff and community.

7. That Noah’s ark will ensure that there should be no discrimination for any kind and specially the women are equally paid as men and their dignity is being honored and the workers have freedom speech and association.

8. That Noah’s Ark is strictly against Child Labour will make sure that no children are used in production and will not buy the goods from such artisans where child labour is seen.

9. That Noah’s Ark will use and also train its artisans to use environment-friendly production techniques and use the sustainable raw materials and reducing the packaging materials and plastics gradually every year.

In summary…
Each day, Noah’s Ark International Exports provides a sustainable source of income for the artisan groups they work with through the business they receive.
With over 49 artisan groups employed, made up of over 500 artisans, they are creating jobs and providing fair wages to an ever-increasing number of people.
But they know that their workers need more than just an income to break the cycle of poverty.
Based on requests from artisans over the years, Noah’s Ark Handicrafts and Artisan Welfare Society has chosen to focus on education, clean water, health, and capacity building initiatives.

When a small scale producer participates in a fair trade network such as the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) it gives them access to technical assistance,
confidence to expand, to improve handicraft quality and yield, social welfare programs (such as school scholarships or educational supplies for their artisans),
micro credit programs critical for their workshop improvements and organizational capacity-building courses.

The way Noah’s Ark approaches the idea of fair trade is by:

(1) Working closely with the artisan groups and educating them to understand the Fair Trade business.
(2) Preparing them for fair trade business.
(3) Marketing their products to the organisations with similar objectives.
(4) Providing transparency to our clients (5) and by investing our profits in the welfare of artisan and community.

There looks to be hope for Indian handicrafts due to Noah`s Ark and the artisans that work within it.

(Photo credit: Shared Earth)