High-End Designer Enhanced Weavers’ Capacity to Engage in High Quality-Bulk Production
Chencha, one of the districts in Gamo Gofa Zone, is traditional hub of weaving where many skilled weavers reside. However, market opportunity is a challenge due to Chencha’s remote location, 500km from Addis Ababa. Typical traditional and low quality fabrics are not woven with good quality inputs and are sold at low prices. Traders set prices and weavers have limited capacity to negotiate and trade.
Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), with nearly 60 years of globalexperience in business solution to poverty has been implementing a project named Ethiopians Driving Growth, Entrepreneurship and Trade (EDGET), linking weavers to high value markets.
One high-end design house, Paradise Fashion approached MEDA for assistance to conclude a lucrative business opportunity to supply 2,000 pieces (a dress and scarf outfit) for an order for Ethiopian Airlines.
Genet Kebede, designer and owner of Paradise Fashion, worked with MEDA to develop a dependable production chain with weavers to deliver high-quality requirements on strict deadlines. MEDA facilitated the linkage and invested in basic skill development, access to savings groups, and fostered a model business agreement which spells out shared responsibility in meeting the expected targets at joint negotiated price.
Genet devoted her master weaver to deliver intensive technical trainings in order to assure quality standards are met and raw materials used properly. Quality defect dropped from 50% to 10% after the five weeks of training as a result of close technical mentorship from the paradise fashion. Additionally, weavers expressed that quality consciousness was created among them.
Paradise Fashion provided all the required rawmaterials to avoid weavers’ use of low quality raw-materials, and this further strengthened weavers pledge to high-quality and consistency. The company supplied $11,000 worth of raw material which in turn reduced time spent by weavers to sourcing and buying raw materials at retailers.
A total of 73 weavers were mobilized and given the market opportunity to produce for Paradise Fashion. The average production is three pieces per month, per weaver; this enables each weaver to earn net income of $80/month in comparison to the production of a traditional lower quality product called Zinar which only generates net income of $35/month. This income increase is a major impact where these weavers collectively generated net income of $7,000 completing the first 500 pieces.
One cluster working on the order is the Andinet Cluster in Tegecha Kebele and has nine Small-Scale Producers Reach High Value Market members who themselves completed 117 pieces earning $1,465 net income. As a result of the income increase, the nine weavers have started weekly savings aiming to build their business and productive assets.
One of them, Melaku, a father of four children, has increased his weekly saving from $2 to $5 and is planning to diversify his income generating activities and engage in cattle fattening.
Another member, Gisha Toske, a father of three children with 20 years of weaving experience, invested part of his earnings to renovate his old house. He added, “I am able to cover my medical expenses from the earnings made from this business. I would have borrowed from a money lender had I not been linked to this business and have earned this additional income.”
A third member of this cluster, Tariku Shewa, tripled his investment and purchased potato seed as a result of this investment in order to also diversify his income sources.
The clusters begin to compete with other clusters; both in terms of quality and quantity, and can now negotiate terms with the buyer transforming the business relationship with traders and buyers. Incentive mechanisms were integrated in the value chain for best performing weavers to boost production and enable new weavers to join production. This has created entrepreneurial competition, increased production, and enabled new weavers to join this growing market.