As part of our transparency, we seek to provide you (the supporter, the consumer) with updates on how our work affects the producers. Our social impact report is intended to provide you with a window into the lives of the artisans and the power of being conscious consumers.
Dsenyo is in partnership with Mulberry Mongoose, a social enterprise located in Mfuwe, Zambia. This group primarily focuses their work on the creation of jewelry made with driftwood, pearls, snare wire and other unique elements.
This past summer our staff member, Ashley, had the honor to visit the group and to meet with each artisan individually. The stories were touching, and sometimes difficult to hear, but more than anything an inspiration to continue doing the work. She witnessed first-hand a place where economics plays a role in the well being of both the people and the wildlife.
A Brief History
As we shared in our previous social impact report, Zambia is a landlocked country found in Southern Africa and bordering Malawi, home of Dsenyo’s first artisan partnerships. In Zambia, over 60% of the population (and almost 80% of the rural population – the population we work with) lives below the international poverty line ($1.25 per day) according to the 2010 World Bank data.
During Ashley's visit to Zambia, she met with Kate Wilson, the founder of Mulberry Mongoose, to discuss our partnership and how we can improve our relationship. It was a nice opportunity to talk in person about how things are working between us regarding communication, timelines, quality control, etc. Over many conversations, many coffees and even some glasses of wine, we had fruitful conversations listening to each other's needs. It was during these conversations that Ashley was reminded that beyond the most commonly shared principles of fair trade (fair wages, safe working environment, no child labor, etc.), fair trade also calls for stronger communication and relationship building between all groups involved.
In addition to meeting with Kate, Ashley also met individually with all five artisans to conduct the surveys, to better know everyone and to spend time learning about their day-to-day challenges (more on that later in the survey).
The beautiful faces of Mulberry Mongoose
Clockwise from top left: Rosie, Jabbes, Kate, Mirriam, Naomi and Gwen
Our social impact survey included interviews with 5 artisans in addition to meeting with the group’s founder and leader, Kate Wilson. The artisans include 4 women and 1 man, ranging in age from 20 to 27 years old. Since our last social impact survey in 2014, this group is both younger and mostly newer to working with Mulberry Mongoose. At the time data was collected (July 2015), the group has been performing full/part-time work for the duration of 1 to 11 months.
At the time of the survey, the group represented a range of good to advanced skills. However, in a follow-up with the group in September, members at the basic skill level have advanced to intermediate levels. All reported that their skills have improved since joining the group. Rosie reported that through an education loan and support from Mulberry Mongoose, she was able to get further education in accounting. Kate, Mulberry Mongoose’s founder, shared, “Rosie got straight distinctions in her subjects, she is very bright, so it was important that she got further education.”
The group supports a community of 32 people, 17 of which are children. Of the 5 artisans, 3 are the sole income providers of the household, which also means that 3 people support 25 people.
Above the Poverty Line
On average, the artisans make 39 ZMZ (Zambian kwacha) per day. There is some variability amongst the artisans based on their duration with the group. The average translates to about $75 US dollars per month and is 73% over the International Poverty Line ($1.25/day). In addition to daily wages, the group is given Thobwa (a vitamin drink), prepared lunch (which includes a protein) and bus transportation every work day. Originally, the group received money for lunch, but during the survey it came about that one member and family were eating 4 days per week and only porridge the remaining 3 days. To ensure this member and the other members were receiving proper nutrition, Mulberry Mongoose began providing prepared meals. All members with the exception of one reported eating daily. The group shared that they eat two to three meals per day.
The artisans reported spending their income on food, school fees, supporting their children and their siblings. Rosie reported spending some of her income on school loans while another reported investing in her sister’s business.
Security of Modern Amenities
The artisans benefit from the following amenities listed below.
We had an open conversation with the group about day-to-day challenges that they each experience. For some, it’s buying food for the kids. For another woman, it’s a lifelong challenge beginning with the separation from her siblings after her parents passed away. Another shared that the rainy season presents its own challenges on the family – which is coming up this fall.*
When asked about changes they have experienced since joining Mulberry Mongoose, a couple of women shared that they can now receive credit at stores – a sign of empowerment in their community. Others shared receiving more respect in their community, being able to pay rent and buy food for their families. Rosie shared, “I feel proud.” Jabbes shared that he is able to "purchase food and basic needs" now for his family.
When asked about how their lives have changed since working, they shared that relationships have improved. For example, “So good and so nice. They come close to me now.” Rosie reflected, “see you as a person now.” The general consensus during interviews was that they felt seen now.
In their words:
“When [you] buy the necklace, I’m becoming happy knowing I’m doing a good job.” - Mirriam
“When you buy our jewelry, business grows and protects our animals. Many people not educated, so snare to sell. Buy jewelry to help animals.” - Gwen
The last quote is in reference to hunting with snare wire, an illegal form of poaching. In this community, there is a causal relationship between economics and wildlife conservation. Poaching can be a result of lack of economic opportunities.
Mulberry Mongoose produces a beautiful line of jewelry made with confiscated snare wire. A portion of the sales ($5 of each piece) is donated to NGOs focused on wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts. A win-win as the jewelry also provides economic opportunities for the artisans. More on the blog:
Dsenyo values this partnership with Mulberry Mongoose. We are proud to bring the collection to the global market supporting these artisans and their community. We hope that through this social impact survey you can see how your purchase supports this rural community in Zambia, and how your continual support will only continue to help this area grow.
Shop the collection by clicking here.
We would love to hear from you! Questions and comments welcome. Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Infographic design by Linda Xiong
* The rainy season can be challenging on people in Mfuwe, Zambia. Below are a few examples of challenges people face.
- Roofs come off during the frequent big storms
- Less work means less money as it's off peak season for tourists
- Crops not able to grow so no supplementary money or food
- Flooding of houses and roads
- Extra malaria and sickness from the water sitting around
- Lack of drinking water as pollution of water from rain washing litter and sewage into systems
- Transport is harder to the clinic if you have sick kids as roads are unpassable
- Less ability to make fires for warmth and cooking as the wood is wet