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Fair Trade Practices in the Northwest Brazilian Amazon

Keywords: fair trade , sustainable development , Baniwa , basket-making , Northwest Amazon.

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Abstract:

This paper describes and analyzes the Arte Baniwa project, a sustainable development project based on the production and commercialization of Baniwa indigenous basketwork with the support of the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a major NGO in Brazil. The project seeks to enhance the value of the Baniwa basketmaking tradition, increase production within the limits of the sustainable use of natural resources, generate income for indigenous producers and their political associations, and train indigenous leadership in the skills of business management. The methodology encompasses a literature review on fair trade and builds upon ethnographic and participative research methods. The narrative and analysis of the case study comprise a framework that is two-fold: first, it looks at existing inter-organizational tiers between actors and identifies the presence of two different logics within the project; second, it encompasses the reality of many emerging fair trade initiatives in Brazil which harness market forces to pursue local sustainable development. The paper argues that ISA has acted as a boundary organization by communicating, translating and mediating between traditional (indigenous) knowledge and Western culture. By doing so, it was able to mobilize the project’s capacity to promote sustainable development.

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