Fair Trade Producer Spotlight: Mahaguthi Craft With a Conscience
- Mata Traders
- 27 Mar, 2022
Rooted in a passion for local community development, this WFTO Guaranteed Fair Trade Organization has an interesting origin story. Mahaguthi began in 1984 to sell the handspun and handwoven fabrics created by trainees of the Tulsi Mehar Ashram, established by philanthropist Tulsi Mehar after he trained with Mahatma Gandhi in India. He returned home afterward to initiate the Gandhi non-violence movement in Nepal, providing support and structure to women facing discrimination and poverty through the spinning of cotton yarns and textile handloom weaving.
There’s meaning behind the name “Mahaguthi” as well - “maha” meaning “big,” and “guthi” meaning “cooperative.” It now represents and serves over 1100 makers (80% are women!) in artisan units and micro businesses throughout the Kathmandu Valley and 15 other districts across Nepal, crafting anything from metalwork and jewelry, to ceramics, furniture, and woolens. In the multicultural country of Nepal, there are 67 ethnic groups and 69 dialects. Many of these cultures are masters of one particular art form, and Mahaguthi is passionate about uniting them all, providing market access and support services for these traditional craft producers.
Mahaguthi’s passion for their artisan network is matched by their dedication to community development and aid. Providing goods, skills training, financial assistance, rehabilitation programs, and social services to marginalized groups, especially women, is at the core of their business. In any national crisis, they are always present in major aid efforts, providing food delivery, shelter assistance, medical safety, fuel and more. Though difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic and other times of crisis, they make all efforts to direct revenue from sales of their goods to social work and capacity building.
Mata Traders has been working with the organization since 2009, designing custom wovens they produce through local family-owned weaving units and new screen prints Mahaguthi creates in-house. Fabric scraps are almost entirely repurposed or recycled for use in the production of small bags, accessories, and cotton stuffing for cushions, all part of their home goods collection available in their domestic market. They’ve even installed a water treatment system to neutralize waste water from in-house screen printing! Every visit to their apparel and sewn goods production facility demands a moment to absorb the panoramic view of the Himalayan foothills from the rooftop lunchroom. The mountainous area and rural terrain creates some communication and logistical challenges, but the views are truly breathtaking.
With each season comes beautiful new wovens and stunning pieces from Mahaguthi. Check out our New Arrivals to see their latest work from this season!