What is BFTA?
Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans is a not-for-profit Palestinian NGO created in 2009 by local community members that works with the Bethlehem handicraft community. Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans is registered according to the Ministry of Interior regulations. We have an administrative board comprised of twenty-one local community members that are elected every two years. We work with local independent producers specializing in olive wood carvings, embroidery, mother of pearl, olive oil soap, recycled glass, handmade paper and handmade jewelry. Our purposes are to promote fair trade principles among all producers and to develop the craft economy in and around Bethlehem by providing support services for local artisans.
Our commitment to fair trade principles guides everything we do. We wish to bring fair prices and working conditions to every handicraft producer in the Bethlehem area. We are working towards the formation of an Arab Fair Trade Forum and we work closely with many other fair trade organizations locally and abroad with the common goal of bringing fair trade to Palestine.
The past years of political turmoil in the Bethlehem area have created a series of obstacles for artisans. A decrease in tourism, a limited job market, restricted movement and a general lack of access to economic resources have left many local artisans struggling to support their families. Language barriers and increasing competition from foreign manufacturers further intensify these difficulties. Consequently, artisans are frequently exploited and prevented from achieving fair prices for their work in both the domestic and international market place. Our market research has demonstrated that there is an untapped market of international customers who appreciate high-quality, handmade goods from the Holy Land. We aim to assist artisans in effectively marketing their products locally, online, and overseas. In addition to marketing, our support for artisans includes a wide range of individualized services. We assist artisans in developing strategies for business growth, product diversification, and creating a healthy work environment. These services are especially beneficial to our artisans from marginalized groups of society, including refugees, women, and the disabled. Because many women lack education and opportunities needed to participate in the larger job market, they rely on their handicraft skills. We believe that our absolute commitment to fair trade principles will create sustainable futures for our artisans and the larger community.