2012 Study Tour: The biggest fair trader in Nepal

ACP – Association of Craft Producers ACP began in 1984 and has been going ever since now employing 70 staff, 60 onsite producers onsite in Kathmandu, and over 1100 producers outsourced in over 15 regions of Nepal. Onsite, all staff and producers are paid a wage, and all outsourced producers get paid on a rate-by-piece basis. In Nepal this is found to be the most effective way of giving a fair wage and ensuring workers don’t slack off their work in a culture where laziness and lack of accountability is standard. When ACP was established, they used to rely on donations and outside investment, but after 3 years they were able to be self-funded developing independently and sustainably through their income from the products they made.

We visited the centre and received an intimate tour with one of the staffers who introduced to us all that they do. She was clearly committed and motivated by the underlying cause and principles of ACP. The organisation’s objective is to lift the standard of women by education, skills training and employment. This is achieved by operating as a fair trade organisation under the label of the same name issued by the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation). ACP utilises the traditional skills that many Nepali women know such as knitting and sewing, however they have also diversified into many new industries which allow involvement of new employers and clients in different products.

Some of the work that they do includes a range of linens and materials decorated with hand-dyed materials, block printing, screen printing, and hand embroidery.  ACP mainly uses their own designs but they also work with designs from individuals by request. Each product has such an amazingly intricate process and designed so preciously.  It was incredible to see the amount of stages and handiwork that goes into each piece that is produced. At the ACP centre, there are design teams for developing new products, where they produce sample pieces, which are then distributed to the outsourced factories to be assembled there from all the materials provided by ACP.

They have a wide range of felt and knitted items that use wool where the raw material is sourced and imported from New Zealand. We were able to see all the stages and processes of these materials from bags of raw wool, to dying, drying, pressing, and sewing products. Some of the other industries include glassware, which is a new initiative made possible through training the men and women at ACP from a German company. Additionally, there is carpentry, ceramics, and lots of felt products including felt and leather made shoes/slippers.

The centre is very well set up and run, and adheres to the fair trade standards of good working conditions and facilities including toilets, clean water, proper waste management, and recycling initiatives. They also have a shop set up in one of the rooms where they sell a lot of their extra stock. It is so beautiful to walk around the site and see all the men and women at work in their different departments. Then to be able to see the products in their final stages and purchase them direct from the shop is such a unique and wonderful story to share. I can honestly say it has grounded my views and my convictions in supporting fair trade and hand-made items where I know that the producers are being paid fairly and being treated well for their amazing work. It is also a great thing that Seven Women works with ACP for some design work and extra production. How fantastic that ACP had led the way in many respects for fair trade production in Nepal.