Saturday, 15 December 2007

Uganda: the reality of production

After the workshop in Kenya I took a bus from Nairobi to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The trip with Akamba bus took about fifteen hours. It was relatively comfortable, compared to Matatu traveling, where you sit in a small van pressed against each other, but the roads where wobbly, sandy and dusty and one feels quite exhausted after such a trip. On the way I spotted a lot of colorful birds, zebras, antelopes, and apes. After being in wealthy circumstances of hotels, restaurants, and good company, this was quite a difference and I felt arriving in Africa for real!

Kampala roads are much worse than Nairobi roads! And traffic jams are relative if you get used being stuck five hours a day... In Kampala we visited a few projects, in example a designer who makes jewelery and bags from recycled materials (see picture left, she is holding a bag made from recycled plastic), which are produced under a women support program. We also visited the Phenix factory, where they produce fabrics and garments form organic cotton. It was interesting to see, since they work hard to make the factory vertically integrated, one could see the whole process from bringing cotton in to a ready sewn and printed garment in one factory.

Actually it is really worth visiting so many places of production because it gives much more of an insight in the reality of garment production. One of the things I learned on my journey is how complex the matters of fair trade is and also how relative it can look. Complex because it is a whole production chain involved. The cotton can be organic and fair trade, but that doesn't make the final product organic or fair trade. Relative because fair trade, even when certified, is not always visible directly, fair trade does not automatically mean smiling workers (as the marketing of fair trade will make you believe), so it is more in the invisible part (control on labor rights, transparency of the production chain, etc.) that makes the difference.

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