Supply Chain 1 - TOSHEKA TEXTILES
Lucy Lau Bigham has been campaigning for many years for the rights of cotton workers, textile creators and farmers in Kenya and indeed across Eastern Africa.
She tells an interesting story of when, at a conference in Nairobi, the Kenyan President at that time walked past her. She stopped him and asked him, 'If you didn't know how much you were going to get paid to do a task, would you do it?' He replied, 'No'. She went on the explain to him that was the situation for cotton farmers in eastern Africa. They have to wait for what the market decides is an appropriate price for their produce, they have to accept it then they will see whether or not they have enough money to get their families through the food insecure months of late dry and early wet season. This isn't fair for these people, she says.
Such unjust crises in cotton work and indeed across many industries in Africa have motivated Lucy to determinedly work hard over the years to create opportunity for those around her. She saw early on that COMMUNITY was central to widening the impact of success and security.
Interestingly, that President increased the minimum price of a kilogram of cotton the following year. She humbly explains she is not sure whether it has anything to do with her...
So, she set about establishing her own textile production company in which everyone must be paid fairly. As an activist and an environmentalist (less common in Africa as she explains), she sees the health of the land and all the plants and flowers as central to the sustainability of our communities, our work and our future. So, she emphasised early the importance of taking cotton from crop to fabric in a way that would not negatively impact the physical world we live in. She has also fought hard for the rights of women in these communities, to allow women autonomy, independence and freedom. She maintains this today and continues to lead by example, inspiring the women of Tosheka to pursue their dream whatever that may be. For these reasons, she calls Tosheka's products COMMUNITY TEXTILES.
And that is what she has established in Wote, Kenya. She now pays cotton farmers a fair price for their cotton, she pays her workers in the textile manufacture process a fair wage (and makes sure they are well looked after in a more holistic way as, when they join Tosheka, they join a community as well as a social enterprise) and she ensures she takes every available decision to protect the environment, using only NON-POLLUTIVE dyes and materials.
When we discussed her career and where she is now with Tosheka, she told us she was at the stage, with multi-factorial covid pressures, economic insecurity in Kenya and upcoming elections, at which she may have to fold the business when she got the call from Origin in early 2022, asking for 3000m of her natural cotton fabric that we wanted to make into beautiful shirts: 'Hallelujah, how do I make that happen!'
Well, she is currently making it happen. In order to assist her in getting the ball rolling, Origin gave her 75% advance in order to purchase new looms and train new weavers and build them into her social enterprise model.
Now we are days away from the fabric completion at which point it will be taken to the SOKO Kenya factory in Kikambala on the coast. What an achievement by Mrs Lau Bigham and her team.
To finish off, and this is where YOU, our loyal customers come in, when (and if) Origin makes profit from this innovative supply chain model, we will share it equally with Lucy and her beloved Tosheka Textiles, facilitating growth of her model, her positive impact and the future of her inspiring enterprise.
Buy your shirt and WEAR IT LIKE IT MATTERS.