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Handicrafts

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Forest-based cultural products created by indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon

Key facts:

    • Handicrafts are non-industrialised manual works made from natural or recycled raw materials, as well as from residual raw materials.
    • In Brazil, handicraft production generates 50 billion reais (approx. USD 10 billion) per year.
    • Around 8.5 million Brazilians work in handicrafts production (IBGE 2020).
    • Handicrafts have contributed significantly to the economic empowerment of women, while strengthening culture tied to the forest and its conservation.

Key stakeholders:

  • Raw material providers/suppliers (seeds, beads, line, vegetable fibres, feathers, shells, fabrics, synthetics, etc).
  • Producers/manufacturers (Indigenous artisans – especially women- who develop handicrafts, individuals or groups, women’s associations).
  • Local distributors (organising the production  for market sales, transport, shipping).
  • Traceability companies (fair trade level, sustainable, safe to consume, hygienic).
  • Retailers (small and large scale, local, national, international, online)
  • Governing bodies and regulatory agencies (i.e. public sector, relevant ministries, policy makers).
  • Civil society and NGOs.
  • Research organisations.
  • Exhibitors.
  • Investors.

Aims, needs and challenges:

  • Increasing productivity (artisans, retailers).
  • Revival of handicraft production culture and economic valuation of Indigenous culture (indigenous women artisans).
  • Diversification of production to increase income generation, especially for Indigenous women (artisans).
  • Empowering artisans in the power dynamics of the value chain and increasing their bargaining power.
  • Increasing the income of indigenous women.
  • Organise the Indigenous women’s organisations around the production of handicrafts.
  • To achieve higher renumeration for cultivation and provision of cocoa raw material.
  • Substitute raw materials (artisan).
  • Investment/funding for better equipment.
  • Training in maintenance techniques to the quality of craftsmanship.
  • Better informing producers about their materials on products.

Value chain and impact on biodiversity:

  • Socio-biodiversity value chains (which include non-timber forest products such as arts and crafts) promote local economies through the marketing of products that empower Indigenous communities as environmental stewards, and support global economic stability by mitigating deforestation, increased risks from climate change, biodiversity loss, and other biogeochemical disasters. 
  • When done sustainably (e.g., by using renewable forest materials from clays for pots and ceramics, to seeds and stones for jewellery, to leaves and feathers for baskets and ornaments, to wood, to oils, to tannins and dyes), forest-based arts and crafts do not have a negative impact on biodiversity. However, new consumption trends and increasing demand pose a threat to biodiversity. 
  • A better understanding of the impacts of Indigenous artisanship is key to improving sustainability practices and identifying the actions needed to formulate policies that promote transformative change, not only to strengthen these value chains, but also to ensure their long-term environmental and economic viability and to enhance community governance. 
  • The value chain includes three main types of stakeholders: mediators (i.e., public sector, NGOs), retailers and exhibitors. They operate in parallel and have a direct relationship with producers. In the case of mediators, while the government legally recognises artisanship as a profession, rules and strategies for scaling up, policies and guidelines to support this value chain are not well established. In contrast, retailers and middlemen aim to maximise their own economic gains, often at the expense of the Indigenous communities. While they may pay reduced prices to the communities, costs to the end consumer are often inflated.