This is the first post in a new series called Common Ground. Plant With Purpose, a San Diego-based nonprofit, works to alleviate poverty around the world by restoring the environment. While our missions are distinct, Plant With Purpose and Moniker Group share common visions for the communities in which we work. The Common Ground Series will explore these shared values and how they intersect.
The first time I held one of our pine needle baskets, I couldn’t believe it was woven by hand. Not by hands like my own, certainly – the level of skill needed to create such products is something I know nothing about. These were strong hands with nimble fingers, the hands of women from a cooperative in Oaxaca, Mexico. And though the baskets are appealing based on their unique shape, meticulous craftsmanship, and piney scent alone, it’s their impact on people that makes them compelling.
Like Moniker, Plant With Purpose seeks to share a human experience through our products. We sell baskets woven by women in Mexico, scarves made by artisans in Thailand, and coffee sourced from the Haitian hillsides where our farmers work. Each product tells a story, and each product supports our international programs. And the story behind our pine needle baskets is an especially triumphant one.
Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico, and the families Plant With Purpose partners with live in desperate circumstances. Most struggle to survive off what they can grow from the severely degraded land. Through a basket-weaving cooperative, Plant With Purpose is restoring hope and opportunity to local women and their families.
Plant With Purpose staff trains these women in weaving techniques and, as money is earned through basket sales, enterprise development and financial management. The baskets provide stable, year-round income that supplements the seasonal funds that men generally earn through farming. The income-generation from these products has changed the dynamics of Oaxacan households and given women more of a voice in the home.
The basket cooperative promotes environmental conservation as pine trees, which are especially precious resources for farming communities, are protected to maturity. Women collect the pine needles from nearby forest floors, eliminating the desire to cut down trees and damage land. As communities care for their land, the soil is replenished and more crops begin to grow. Income, food, and dignity: all of these through one simple product.
Moniker Group builds products with great design. But more importantly, they create products that reflect great human experience. It’s the fullness of this experience that gives life to their craft. Similarly, by weaving baskets these Oaxacan women are bringing about lasting transformation in their communities and land. It’s this story of great human experience that gives life to their craft and infuses their baskets with beauty. Although countries apart, there is equal pride in the craft. These unique pieces hold stories allowing for common ground.
By: Annelise Jolley, Outreach Coordinator at Plant With Purpose