Samuel Masih is a keen observer. He noticed from his previous experiences of working with artisans that they weren’t comfortable or confident in the presence of his business associates. Investigating the situation, Masih discovered that these associates were taking from each order a personal commission from the artisans. He studied the working terms and conditions of metal craftsmen of Moradabad and became aware that the big exporters were not involving their own money in the production, but were using the artisan’s money and paying them very low wages. Indignant of how his business associates were taking advantage of the artisans, Masih moved forward to create Noah’s Ark International Exports with the mission to have an honest working and sustaining relationship with artisans and build a reciprocated trust.
Established in 1986, Noah’s Ark International Exports and Masih work primarily with metal/handicrafts craftsmen whose work has been passed down from one generation to another. In an email, Masih explained, “It is very important to sustain this art. With our work we try to give an identity to the grass root artisans metal work. Noah’s Ark works with about 49 artisan groups making it a total of about 500 artisans all together. Thirty percent of these are women. The main places for productions are Moradabad, Saharanpur, Nagina, Jaipur, Sari Tarin, Delhi, Hapur, Firozabad and Amritsar. We pay fair wages that are more than 10 to 15 percent higher than the local wages, as well production costs in the form of advance payments upfront to help the artisans cover any raw material costs.”
Faithful in keeping to the companies goal of protecting its workers, Masih has faced numerous challenges primarily in competing with other larger exporters who are not fair trade followers, but also the dilemma that many companies face today—the decrease in the handicrafts market/handmade products and the ongoing competition from China. “Since the market for small business like us is very limited, most of the bigger buyers want to do audits. This makes it difficult for small businesses and artisan groups to prepare for such audits, as it requires big investment to buy land and build a factory. The problem here is that the bigger retail franchises only want to purchase from big factories.”
Yet Masih and his company persevere and march forward. The organization runs four social projects that range from providing free education to approximately 250 free education to approximately 250 of the artisans’ and field workers’ children. It also provided water filter or systems in 30 artisan’s workshops. In addition, the organization offers a financial infrastructure for artisans to work independently without having to depend on bank loans. And for artisans’ daughters ages 14 and older, Noah’s Ark runs a stitching school to learn a traditional and important skill in the handcraft sector.
If these projects were not enough, Noah’s Ark has even more ambitious plans such as purchasing land to shift their work to a new location. As well as a new social project of water fitting a motor and tank to five of their staff members. “The staff had a hand pump and a water tap, in which the water was supplied by the municipal department; the water only came for two hours in the morning and one hour in the evening. After [installing] the water tank/motor it made it easy for their families to access water that they can store the water in a tank and use it anytime.”
To generate more awareness in the artisans' work and the ongoing projects, Noah’s Ark International Exports, will be exhibiting at Artisan Resource™ on August 19 through August 21 at the New York International Gift Show® at the Jacob Javits Center and Pier 92. Artisan Resource focuses on global artisan enterprises as a source for designers and retailers who are looking for one-of-a-kind items, as well as forming partnerships to keep craftsmanship, traditional methods, techniques and cultural heritage alive and thriving.
At Artisan Resource, Noah’s Ark International will display handmade products including forged iron, but also items made from recycled iron that represents sustainability and is devoted to the foundation of eco-friendly production.
Noah’s Ark Our products can be found at: Ten Thousand Villages, One World Projects, SERRV, Worldstock.com, Trades of Hope, Hinda, Helping Hand Rewards, World Craft, Tesoros, Trade as One, Spectrum Home (NJ), Charity USA, Hallmark, 7 Loaves, Global Exchange. To learn more, please visit http://www.noahsindia.com.