Each of these three owls is carved from a single tagua nut, a seed from a palm that grows in South American rainforests.  The tagua nut is known as vegetable ivory and is seen as an environmentally sound alternative to animal ivory.  Once the seed has been dried it can be dyed or left in its natural milky white state before it is carved into a wide range of items, beads, buttons, ornaments and of course jewellery.  The most unusual item I have read about is a set of bagpipes.

tagua-nut-splitSplit Tagua Nut

This trio of owls was made in Quito Ecuador by Olga and her family who are part of a nationwide group of World Fair Trade Organisation producers.

The World Fair Trade Organisation  provides fairly paid work opportunities for marginalised artisans around the world.  The WFTO has 10 principles that Fair Trade organisations must follow, including

  • Payment of a Fair Price
  • Ensuring no Child Labour and Forced Labour
  • Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment
  • Good Working Conditions
  • Respect for the Environment

To find out more about Fair Trade visit WFTO.  Perhaps we shouldn’t always be looking for the cheapest bargains.