Handicrafts: Turning Seeds and Fibers Into Art

Indigenous women during baskets production / Photo: Forest Trends
Indigenous women launch catalog to market their bio jewels and baskets

May/June, 2024 – Selling handicrafts (such as bio jewels, weaving products, and baskets) is how many Indigenous women make a living. Artisan production helps to strengthen local cultures and protect the standing forest. Many artisans face challenges when gathering raw materials from the forest, entering foreign markets, and strengthening their organizations. 

Thanks to the work developed in recent years to reinforce socio-biodiversity chains, Indigenous women from the Tupi Guaporé region, in the heart of the Brazilian Legal Amazon, managed to overcome these obstacles and launched the “Handicraft Catalog of the Indigenous Peoples of Rondônia and Mato Grosso.”

This publication goes beyond simply describing and displaying the items for sale: it provides technical support, including training and capacity building on management and marketing; institutional strengthening of women's organizations; and support for the governance of their value chains. 

The catalog is the product of collaboration between local Indigenous peoples and the Forest Trends Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative (ICGT-FT), under the “Nossa Floresta Nossa Casa” (Our Forest, Our Home) project. 

Through its strategic partnership with USAID, the project also includes Greendata – Socioeconomic and Environmental Management and Innovation Center as an implementation partner and counts on the support of the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA). It operates in eight Indigenous lands: Igarapé Lourdes, Kwazá do Rio São Pedro, Rio Branco, Rio Mequéns, Roosevelt, Sete de Setembro, Tubarão Latundê, and Zoró. 

The catalog includes pictures of the products sold and information about the history of the people living in Tupi Guaporé (an area slightly larger than the US state of Connecticut), a 1.5-million-hectare territory formed by corridors of protected areas. It is home to 28 Indigenous peoples and traditional communities, with around 10,000 residents. 

In addition to strengthening socio-biodiversity chains with increased resilience, the project focuses on the well-being of Indigenous Peoples focusing on territorial governance, strengthening community organizations, cultural appreciation, food security, protection of rights and livelihoods, and conservation of the standing forest and its biodiversity helps the community identify economic initiatives for the Indigenous community.

As a result, Indigenous women occupy more decision-making spaces and gain financial autonomy, improving the living conditions of their families.

“I received a lot of support to kick-start our work. I had help with navigating bureaucracy and understanding that our cultural activities can help us survive. It is very important for us, women, to grow professionally. Handicraft production is part of our culture and can strengthen our knowledge too," says Lana Suruí, who coordinates activities linked to the handicraft chain at COOPAITER, an Indigenous cooperative managed by the Paiter Suruí people. Lana facilitates commercial partnerships with companies to find solutions to distribute handicrafts from the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Land.

The full catalog is available here.