Creating jobs with sisterhood and banana fibres

Behind the handmade collection BOTANISK are 5,600 talented women artisans. Ami Patel from Industree Foundation in India does not only see banana bark transformed into beautiful baskets, but also sisterhood and jobs being created.

The BOTANISK collection combines function and beauty with urban gardening and indoor potting in mind. The pots, plant hangers, tool bags, pillows and rugs are all made out of natural tactile materials like jute, better cotton and banana fibre. The collection is made in close collaboration with six social entrepreneurs, whose ideas are based on creating work in regions where it’s most needed. Each item is handmade by skilled artisans in India, Jordan, Thailand, and Romania.

“We have tried to make sure that you can see that each item is handmade so that there is a clear link to the people who made it – almost like an autograph”, says IKEA designer Andreas Fredriksson.

Industree Foundation in India is one of the social entrepreneurs. The foundation aims to tackle the root causes of poverty by creating an ownership-based creative manufacturing ecosystem for micro-entrepreneurs. One result is Greenkraft, a producer enterprise owned by and made up of Indian women artisans. The women transform banana bark into beautiful baskets and the income they earn has the potential to transform lives.

The first IKEA order was for 7,000 handmade baskets, a number that has increased with each collection. Maintaining a stable and sustainable workload has proved a challenge, despite the efforts of everyone involved. Realising this, Industree came to a conclusion:

“If we want to approach other companies similar to IKEA, that way being less dependent on IKEA alone, we need a bigger setup and we need to move closer to where the artisans are”, says Ami Patel, Partnership Manager at non-profit Industree Foundation.

Kavitha Nagaraj is one of the basket weavers in Madurai. When she joined she had never woven before. Since then she’s learned all parts of the weaving process, and she’s now responsible for quality control in Madurai. Earning an income makes everyday life a little bit less stressful and gives her and her husband the chance to send their two sons to a good school.

“Learning to weave baskets is a bit like learning to cook. I wasn’t great at first but now I’m a master chef,” says Kavitha.

At present, Industree creates jobs for around 1,050 co-workers, 620 being women basket weavers – a number that’s likely to grow.

“The future is bright. Banana bark is a natural fibre and a material that would be wasted if we didn’t upcycle it. Thanks to the artisans’ skills, we create something beautiful and give it an entirely new value,” says Ami.

BOTANISK will launch in selected IKEA markets during March and June 2020.

About the BOTANISK collection

Consists of handmade plant pots, baskets, paper pot maker, plant pot cover, tool bag, carpet, cushion cover, plus more, designed to make urban gardening fun, functional and beautiful. Made of sustainable materials like banana fibre, jute, and better cotton. The collection is created in collaboration with six social entrepreneurs – creating jobs for 5,600 people in Rangsutra, Industree, and Ramesh Flowers in India, Doi Tung DP in Thailand, Jordan River Foundation in Jordan, and MBQ in Romania.

About  Industree Foundation and Greenkraft

Established in 2000, Industree Foundation aims to tackle the root causes of poverty by creating an ownership-based, creative manufacturing ecosystem for micro-entrepreneurs. So far, Industree has reached 30.000 women artisans across India and Africa, through collaboration with organisations such as IKEA.

One of the producer enterprises within Industree is Greenkraft. The producer-owned social enterprise was established in 2012. The producers/artisans, 80% being women, all have an equal stake in the company. As owner-members, they have access to increased finance and digital financial services, training, social security, childcare, and more.

Today over 1070 people get a livelihood at Rangsutra through the productions for IKEA.

Over 20 000 jobs are created through the partnerships IKEA has with social entrepreneurs around the world.