NRT Trading is part of the larger Enterprise Development programme within the Northern Rangelands Trust. NRT Trading was set-up in 2006 to try and bring direct financial benefits from conservation to communities. The aim was to do this through the establishment of environmentally sustainable and complementary enterprises. It was hoped that by diversifying incomes for rural families, this would reduce the pressure and reliance on the environment and wildlife. Using established conservancies as an entry point, NRT Trading began to engage women’s groups in beadwork training, product development and marketing, and basic accounting and leadership skills. The challenges of facilitating this kind of training and developing functioning markets in such remote areas were numerous, but a practical model has now been developed that is being used in every participating conservancy. This is the BeadWORKS programme.
BeadWORKS provides a consistent and reliable source of income to communities, and has impacted at least 900 women through the production and sale of artefacts and direct employment at the packaging facility. The number of women involved in the programme continues to rise. It is committed to providing high quality products to its clients, who include zoos in the USA and Australia, as well as improving the livelihoods of the communities who are dedicated to wildlife conservation. Zoos Victoria have been a huge supporter of the bead programme from the very beginning, and continue to be the single largest purchaser of NRT beads for sale in their gift shops. To date, the programme has sold over Ksh 10,304,000 (USD 120,000) to Zoos Victoria and have ongoing orders worth Ksh 5,187,500 (USD 60,200).
ThroughBeadWORKS, the producer groups have had many opportunities and experiences through which they have contributed to the wellbeing of their families and participated in economic development.
Monthly markets have been established in each participating conservancy, where representatives fromBeadWORKS collect orders from the previous month, carry out quality control, and find out how the women are doing. These monthly markets also provide a support system, where women can chat, share ideas, get opinions on new enterprises and guidance on any issues they face at home; business or otherwise. Meetings like this are rare in rural communities, and the monthly markets are an event to look forward to for every woman involved. A mobile library is also available in each participating conservancy, for women to research new ideas in beadwork and basketry.
Although NRT continues to subsidise the BeadWORKS programme, a new business plan has been developed that will aim to cover all the operating costs. A design and marketing advisory board has also been set up to provide management with guidance in the areas of product development, product design and marketing.