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Some free trade treasure ideas from Africa.

It’s great fun to add home furnishings, jewelry and clothing from other cultures to your possessions. What is african art? Have you hankered to find some exotic items from Africa to spice up your daily life? If you have, you’ll want to understand fair trade. When you buy from fair trade organizations, many of which are social justice-oriented, you’ll accomplish several things. First of all you will save money and the creator of the item will earn more money than otherwise. Why? Because when you buy fair trade you’re buying directly from the artisan. There are no middlemen.

When you travel to foreign countries including Africa, you can learn about african art and you will visit the local markets. But one little-known fact is that often these vendors are not the creators of the products. They are paying as little as possible to the creators and making as much profit as possible. Even worse, there are sometimes sweat shops that keep workers, some of them children, working long, long hours, for little income. There is no hope for these workers to make enough money to meet the basic needs of their families.

Fair trade organizations turn all of this around. They find accomplished artisans, african artists and  organize them into cooperatives and buy the work directly from them. Then they set up the websites in other countries so that the products can find a home. It is a win-win situation for both buyer and creator. The organizations are usually non-profit, or at the very least they have low overhead. This is global economic justice at its best. One of the most interesting parts in buying from fair trade organizations is that you can often meet the artisan via the website biographies. Take a look at some of the fair trade websites listed below and select from some of their most popular offerings.

This site is based in Kenya. Aina Moja is Kiswahili for One of a Kind. And true to its name, each item sold through this organization is handmade and unique. Choose from a wide variety of clothing items, jewelry, wooden animal carvings, sisal bags, Masai blankets and more.

Here you’ll find an amazing array of African baskets from many countries: Ghana, Uganda, Swaziland, Namibia, Kenya and Botswana to name a few. Baskets are made from a variety of native materials such as sisal, palm and other grasses. There are also wood and wire products. You’ll also find beadwork and African masks for sale on this free trade site.

Begun by Liz Walk in 2003, Economic Development Imports partners with One World Projects to sell the handmade artisan crafts of third world women. They import items from Upper Volta which creates jewelry from recycled plastics, Ugandan bark cloth, Rwandan fruit baskets and knit items, Ethiopian silver jewelry and much more.

Find Ghanian jewelry by designer Ahene Pa Nkasa on this site. Also shawls of mudcloth or indigo tie die. There are batik shirts and baskets of all kinds. Other designers have created jewelry made of wax brass beads and lost wax brass pendants. Wooden boxes and a variety of other goods are available.

At Village Markets you’ll find the usual jewelry and clothing items plus a vast array of household pieces. Carved wooden animals, candle holders, vases in many styles and bird feeders made of gourds. Kenyan scarves are a popular item here.

At Djembe Direct you can purchase amazing handmade African drums. Begin with the djembe, a traditional African drum and move into other African instruments such as the balafone, which is similar to a xylophone. A huge variety of African musical instruments and information on how to play and care for them.

Take this opportunity to select African fair trade gifts and household items to enrich lives, both yours and those who created these unique, handmade treasures.