This Handwoven Ornament Feeds Families in Rwanda

At the core of this Rwanda based company’s mission is connections. Connections that can bring a fair wage to Rwandan artisans, give you a glimpse into the lives of someone a thousand miles away, and bring beautiful, functional art to your fingertips.

Azizi Life is the relatively new artisan collective that branched from the Food for the Hungry (FH) charity. FH was an initiative that began in partnership with the Rwandan government to train and promote small businesses in rural communities. Rwandans received training in literacy, writing business plans, and applying for bank loans.

But there was a problem.

The Rwandans lacked the customer base to be able to make their program successful. FH wanted to find a solution that would give their communities access to larger markets. In 2008, Azizi Life was founded.

There are currently 25 different groups of artisans with 15-20 members in each cooperative. The company estimates that with an average of 6 children per household, they are benefiting approximately 2,500 people.

kanguka-redempta-mutegarugoriDuring this season of giving and being together with loved ones, this little Basket Ornament is making a huge impact for the Rwandans who craft it. Three baskets can fund the purchase of annual national health insurance for one member of the family. With the sale of one basket, a woman can purchase either 3 lbs of dried beans, 2 lbs of potatoes or 1.5 lbs of nutritious porridge for a child.

In addition to generating funds for provisions, the women who weave for Azizi Life say that they have found a place to chase away their isolation. The women gather to weave and talk about their problems and provide support for each other. This was previously impossible when the women were working full-time in the fields and at home.

Redempta Mtegarugori is one of the weavers at Azizi Life who crafts the Basket Ornament from locally grown sisal fibers. Redempta shares that she loves going to Azizi Life on delivery day to meet with different artisans and bringing the cooperative her products.

Not only has Redempta been able to buy clothing for herself and meet other basic needs using the income from Azizi Life, she also helped pay for her wedding expenses when she got married last year! She recently gave birth to her first baby boy and can continue working and using the income to keep him healthy.

Azizi Life wants to continue to grow and become a self-sustaining project that will no longer require outside funding. This would mean selling enough products to be able to cover all costs. Although Azizi Life is registered as a for-profit company, none of the shareholders take money from the business, choosing instead to channel the money back into continuing to develop the communities they’ve built.

ornament_red_532e4197-4d0e-4a60-ac3f-740214a780ef_1024x1024The Basket Ornament is an add-on option for November’s Giving Artisan Basket and can also be purchased from the GlobeIn store. These ornaments have room to hide a small gift or treat and will brighten up your holiday season.


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Post by Barbara Lee.

Barbara is a world traveler who is passionate about sustainable food systems, responsible consumerism, and holistic living. Her professional background and interests include writing, cooking, non-profit work, and eco-conservation.