Asha Handicrafts, (Asha means "hope" in Sanskrit), was established in 1975 by a group of Christian businessmen, and today is successfully marketing handcrafts for over 50 family workshops around India, representing 1500 artisans, irrespective of caste or creed. Asha Handicrafts provides the security of markets to small scale artisan workshops like ANSA, the soapnut harvesters in Tamil Nadu.
On top of benefits such as advances to purchase raw materials and interest-free loans, Asha welfare workers provide the artisans' families with medical care and educational assistance, including scholarships for primary school children, school fees, uniforms and books. Asha encourages and assists the workshops to find their own markets and to deal directly with customers eventually, instead of becoming dependant on Asha for work.
Anthyodaya Sangham (ANSA) is an NGO founded in 1980 in Tamil Nadu to help rural folk sustain themselves through indigenous business practices. ('Anthyodaya' means development from destruction, 'Sangha' means association.) Asha Handicrafts has been promoting ANSA's soap nuts since 2005.
ANSA aims at integrated development of the marginalized and oppressed sections of the society by targeting areas of economic development, health care needs and environmental protection. The people ANSA work with are mostly scheduled castes who are socially marginalized. Some of their menfolk work in nearby towns as petty vendors and labourers in the market or on construction sites.
The objectives of ANSA are to identify commercially viable herbs and herbal products, and to procure, cultivate, process and manufacture them according to international standards and market them in the domestic market. ANSA has established a conservation park at Viduthalaipuram, 30kms from Tiruchirapalli, where research and development is undertaken on different species of medicinal plants.
On the social side they seek to involve women's groups in most of their activities, empowering them economically and socially by providing them with adequate training and education. They have several self-help groups of women who are involved in saving and micro-credit schemes and are given entrepreneurship training to grow their own group businesses. All the group members have been trained to take care of primary health needs of their family by using herbal systems. They have also been encouraged to develop herbal gardens in their own backyards.
Love the Soap nuts, was a bit skeptical to think that these would work, but they do.
Very happy with using them, cloths actually feel better and don't need to use a fabric conditioner, its a win win for all of us and the environment.
You dont need to buy commercial washing powder.
The soapnuts are fantastic, no smells and CLEAN clothes. Couldn't ask for more. Very satisfied customer. Thanks.
Just bought the soap nuts from the catalogue and can recommend them. What a treat for us and the environment.
I just wanted to let you know that I wrote up a blog post directly comparing the performance of soapnuts against ordinary detergent at lifting various stains off a shirt. The soapnuts performed very well in the comparison.
You can find the post here.
This is such a great product: fair trade and eco-friendly, and very economical.
A little about Asha Handicrafts: Asha Handicrafts provides the security of markets to small scale artisan workshops around India, like ANSA, the soapnut harvesters in Tamil Nadu.
New Internationalist Australia is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, which means we have to stock a percentage of Fair Trade products, and also adhere to Fair Trade practices ourselves. Great for supporting producers rights, and also for our staff.
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