The Wildlife Works’ factory, on the edge of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, became Fair Trade USA certified in the spring of 2015. We were the first carbon neutral, fair trade factory in Africa! Now, just over a year later, we have been producing Fair Trade USA certified garments for clients around the world, such as Threads for Thought.
Our factory was founded in 2001 on ethical and fair trade policies – back before the fashion industry even had the words to describe sustainable fashion. Buying ethically made clothing is a meaningful way to vote with your dollar for a healthier planet and happier people. Buying Fair Trade USA certified is a way to transparently track the supply chain of your clothes. Our factory in Kenya produces quality made garments that support the local rural population and protect wildlife and trees.
One of the most significant benefits of producing Fair Trade USA that makes a real impact on workers lives is the Fair Trade USA ‘premium’. The premium is 1%-10% of the manufactured price of a garment that the client pays directly into a factory worker’s fund. A democratically elected committee of workers, who collectively decide how to use the money, manages this fund.
A meeting of the Wildlife Works’ Fair Trade USA Committee of factory employees to discuss Fair Trade USA matters
Thanks to the vision of our fashion clients and the commitment of their buyers, this money helps to further local empowerment and economic development and has made a big impact on the lives of our workers in rural Kenya. Our workers have used their Fair Trade USA premium money (which to date is a total of around $130 per employee) for things such as paying off school fees for their children, growing or starting small side enterprises and improving their living standards to have luxuries such as electricity and running water.
Read some of the inspiring stories of our fair trade workers here.
Elipina Wakio is a helper in our factory. Elipina is a single parent and has two children in primary school. With nearly half of this money, she bought six bags of cement to plaster the floor of her house that was previously just a dirt floor. The rest went to clearing her children’s school fees and purchasing new school uniforms for them, clearing her water bill and buying food. “Fair Trade USA orders give me the morale to put more perfection and energy into my work bearing in mind that I will benefit financially at the end of it,” Elipina commented.
Festus Mutua, a sewing machine operator, started working with Wildlife Works in 2011. He is married and has four children, three of whom are already married and one who is in high school. Festus spent his Fair Trade premium money on clearing school fees for his youngest son and boosting his wife’s local boutique business. With the rest of the money he purchased two female goats in order to start a small goat milk business on the side to supplement his income from working in the Wildlife Works’ factory. “I’m so happy being part of Fair Trade USA and I’m grateful to the financial support that I’m benefiting from,” he says.
Halima Chaka is a sewing machine operator who started working with us in 2011. She has six children who are all still in school. Nearly three-quarters of her Fair Trade premium has gone to opening a business in the local village where she sells vegetables, clothes, food, and household goods. With her remaining money, Halima cleared school fees for all of her children. “I’m so grateful for the financial support I have got from Fair Trade USA and it is my wish that these orders come in more frequently!” She added.
Elipina Sezi is a machinist who started working with us in 2012, married and has two children who are both in school. Elipina is a hardworking woman. With her Fair Trade USA money, she has renovated her home bringing to it modern standards of living such as adding electricity and water plumbing. She wishes to have more orders from Fair Trade as it helps her to continue home improvements for her family.
With the last Fair Trade USA order, the Wildlife Works’ Fair Trade USA Committee voted to divide the premium money between themselves and community projects. 75% went equally between the employees and the remaining 25% is earmarked to buy new school uniforms for two local primary schools in the Wildlife Works’ project area – Marasyi and Itinyi. Alfred Karisa, President of the Fair Trade USA Committee, commented, “I want to say thank you to the concerned people who are Fair Trade USA customers. This gives everyone in the factory extra income but also helps us raise the standards of living for our community. Our only wish is that more people chose Fair Trade USA.”