Saving Lives Through Fair Trade
Mike Muchilwa directs the work of KICK Trading, a Ten Thousand Villages trading partner in Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu was a site of much post-election violence in Kenya earlier this year.
Muchilwa shares his thoughts and observations on the violence and its impact on Kisumu and the work done by KICK:
Kisumu, located on Lake Victoria in Western Kenya, and the location of KICK Trading, suffered economic damage of more than $45 million, which will take as many as 20 years to rebuild. Thousands have lost their livelihoods, and crime has risen proportionally. Property has been looted and destroyed, and the city resembled a war zone.
International observers have recognized the need to address many underlying issues that have boiled to the surface following disputed elections in Kenya. Key issues have been unemployment, poverty and inequality. Kenya has the third worst income distribution in the world, with 20 percent of its population controlling half its wealth. Many unemployed people, desperate to earn a living, have been forced into the informal sector, popularly known as the “jua kali” (Swahili for hot sun). It is these producers with whom KICK Trading has worked since its inception. The organization has always seen the potential of these marginalized people who have been left out of the formal economy.
I believe many artisans would have joined the looting, destruction and death had it not been for fair trade. Others have been rehabilitated from crime and prostitution because fair trade gave them the means to earn an honest living. When fair trade opportunities are lost, we see the death, desperation and hopelessness arising.
Fortunately, all of KICK’s producers were alright, with no reports of any having been harmed. Credit goes to partners like Ten Thousand Villages in the United States and Canada, as well as Trade Aid New Zealand, whose orders have kept producers working in spite of the hardships Kisumu faces. The recent chaos has strengthened KICK’s resolve to promote fair trade and benefit many more marginalized producers and desperate youth. With support from its trading partners, KICK can prevent a young life from becoming a death statistic—and prove that fair trade does save lives.