Since 1993, Mitra Bali has been actively participating in Bali’s economic and social development by working to empower a large group of handicraft producers. One of Bali’s great sources of potential are the skilled hands its citizens that create bountiful quantities of crafts and souvenirs for the tourists, who traverse the rich and beautiful soil of this island. World-renowned male and female craft producers alike contribute greatly to the development of Bali’s tourist industry. The presence and contribution of the tourists, who purchase these products, has lead to a growing number of work opportunities for the brothers and sisters, relatives, families and neighbors in the villages of craft producers, who have suffered from the prolonged crisis in Bali.
However, there is a downside to this development of the tourist industry, the reality of which is somewhat different from the common perception of Bali as a sacred, island paradise filled with prosperous artisans. In actuality, only a small portion of the benefits of the industry are ever enjoyed by the village craft producers. Instead, it is the owners of the rows and rows of art shops lining the streets of certain tourist centers who profit from tourism in Bali. The hard work of the artisans, who are vital and at the heart of the industry, is not recognized and it is only the middlemen who reap the benefits. Craft producers rarely receive a fair deposit before starting their work, and they seldom know to whom or to which country their products have been sold or traded, or at what price. These problems all arise from a single cause: The model of trade and business policy that prevails today is not fair or just, in terms of the relationships between the craft producers and the employers or middlemen. The Balinese tourist industry as it is benefits these middlemen, who are becoming more prosperous, while the poor craft producers remain impoverished and in need.
Based on these realities, Mitra Bali is actively involved in assisting these marginalized craft producers to understand and develop a fair trade model. Our strong belief in fair trade is realized in our organizations’ structure and its business style: there is clear dialogue, equality and a sense of mutual respect throughout the production process. The producers always receive fifty percent of the total payment up front; they are paid promptly, the payment being a percentage of the suitable and fair sale price, which is calculated together with the craft producers. Mitra Bali also has regular free training workshops on design and product development, which disseminate educational and enlightening information, including ways to help producers develop their businesses. Mitra Bali has an environmental program replanting albesia (blalu) trees as a sign of our concern for the fate of Bali’s natural environment, which is being demolished by investors hungry for land. “We know that what we have done, are doing, and will do is still far from our hopes and dreams . . . that is why we must continue this process. Another wonderful world is possible.”