Sunday, March 23, 2008

Update: Charkhas for Africa Project

So, at the beginning of this year I pledged a delivery of one Babe Pinkie and one Strauch hand carder a month to Malian spinners through the National Center for the Promotion of Artisanal Arts in Bamako headed by Sidiki Ouattara.

The shipment for January went out. I put the address, a PO Box, that was in Mr. Ouattara's business card. Two weeks went by and while tracking the package which goes out by DHL (at a wholesale rate of $55 through my employer), it seemed to me that it was stuck at the DHL depot in Bamako. I emailed Mr. Outtara and asked him to check with the DHL office because the package had arrived. He said he would go there personally.

More weeks went by and still I hadn't heard from Mr. Outtarra. I had the February shipment ready to go, but I didn't want to send it without confirmation of the first delivery. Usually I get a prompt reply or update from Mr. Ouattara; this time things were quiet on the email front. So, I emailed him to check.

Mr. Ouattara reported that, because I had put the (wholesale) price of the items on the shipping form, he was taxed 100 percent. OMG!

Unfortunately, I always have to put a price when sending by DHL as labeling a package a "gift" is not an option. Probably for insurance purposes, in case the item is damaged or lost. I had been sending PVC spinning wheels and Strauch carders to two women's coops in Segou three hours away and all items were always received without any problem.

Probably, sending to a PO Box was a bad idea. Probably Bamako, being Mali's major city, the people there have less of a sense of community that you would find in a more rural place like Segou where they would give a non-profit organization like Mr. Ouattara's a break. Who knows?

Anyway, the February package was sent to a physical address and I underpriced the items; I mean WAY under price. In less than a week I received a thank you note from Mr. Outtara:

"I have just received this morning a package containing a wheel and a pair of hand carders this time without having to pay anything. I think that we have found a system that works.

"On March 19 I met the members of the women's association of Nonsomboubou located 62 km from Bamako and I took the opportunity to talk to them about your availability to help them in their work with cotton. They are very pleased and would like to get to know you better.

"I will be in Antananarivo (Madagascar) for the conference on Indian Ocean textiles. As soon as I return, I will contact you again for the next one."

By the way, I have moved the Charhas for Africa online shop back to Material Whirled. I find that Etsy has become so big it's so easy to get lost in the crowd.