Smolart is a self-help organization in the Western Kenyan community of Kisii, near Lake Victoria. Kisii is an area unique as a source of kisii soapstone, and is home to many artisans who make their living through carving. Smolart seeks to improve the lives of member carvers through marketing and logistical supports. Smolart works with 200 producer members, each of whom is a stakeholder. Each member works with several artisans in their home, for a total of some 1,000 carvers, thus creating job opportunities while also allowing artisans to be closer to their families. In a rural area with limited employment opportunities, Smolart provides a valuable marketing outlet for its member carvers.
The group’s activities are directed by seven elected management committee members, each of whom holds their position for three years. The committee is made up of both women and men. This committee forms the link between Smolart management and the carvers. Smolart also assists community-based projects to improve health, education, shelter and environmental initiatives, as well as AIDS awareness campaigns. Smolart has participated in a tree planting project, a spring water project and plans to establish a library for the community at their headquarters. The group’s mission goes beyond providing a fair wage to artisans; they seek to eradicate poverty among their members, promote fair trade, oppose discrimination, to support community efforts and to manage resources sustainably.
Smolart was established in 1990 under the Ministry of Culture and Social Services of Kenya, and started full operations in March of 1994.
Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from Smolart since 2008. Ten Thousand Villages purchases carved kisii stone items from Smolart.
Smolart was founded in 1990, and began full operations in 1994
Smolart activities are governed by a seven-member management committee
200 member carvers each employ some 5 additional carvers in their home workshops
Artisans are both male and female, between the ages of 18 and 60
Smolart supports a wide variety of community initiatives, related to health, education, shelter and the environment
10 percent of sales are local; 90 percent are export