Sapia, an organization practicing fair trade principles in Bogota, works with artisans from Colombia’s low-income and internally displaced populations. The business originated in 1995 when Ana Piedrahita was inspired by a dried orange peel box made in Uruguay. The business has since grown to enable a partnership with a local retail operation, forming Sapia.
Products made by Sapia include orange peel crafts made from the by-product of freshly squeezed orange juice. The use of orange peels as raw material provides income to the vendors who normally pay to discard the peels as well as the artisans who work for Sapia creating unique whimsical crafts.
Sapia incorporates fair trade principles in their operation, as they seek to develop an artisan-based handicraft sector in Colombia. Colombia has recently achieved a relatively good macroeconomic climate; however, people in the lower income brackets continue to face serious economic challenges. Colombia ranks low in income equality, and has one of the higher numbers of internally displaced persons of any country in the world. Growing sales have given Sapia an opportunity to expand its reach to other artisan groups in rural areas of the country, allowing them to move beyond their original orange peel products to create new lines based on tagua nut (a type or palm nut know as vegetable ivory for it’s resemblance to elephant ivory), corn husk, cotton thread and recycled materials.