Come learn about the ladies behind this inspiring social enterprise in Timor-Leste which makes handmade organic soap. Mainly using locally-sourced ingredients, the production and sales of this soap greatly benefits the community in the areas of agriculture, quality of living and personal empowerment.
Visit their page online at http://hummingfish.org/
This event is jointly organised with Ai-Funan and Gone Adventurin’.
In 2005 a group of Canossan Sisters in Timor-Leste who run a women’s training program there, sent one of their students to attend a program in the Philippines, where she learned soap making. In 2006 through the sponsorship of the Rotary Club in Melbourne, Australia, a small Timorese woman’s enterprise named “Sabaun Timor” was created to make soaps from locally grown ingredients and sell them to the domestic market. In the fall of 2011, The Hummingfish Foundation (THF) joined the ladies in a rebranding, marketing and distribution effort called Ai-Funan, which aims at selling their soaps primarily to the high-end export market.
Organic products have grown in popularity with consumers all over the world. In the United States alone, the organic market is worth some 23 billion dollars a year and growing at nearly 8% per year. What makes the Ai-Funan soap attractive to the organic market is the branding, the organic nature of its components as well as the process that is used to make them. All the ingredients used in the production of Ai-Funan soaps are grown organically in Timor-Leste, with the exception of the Australian essential oils used in the Frangipani, Coconut and Lemongrass soaps. Each and every bar of Ai-Funan soap is all-natural and hand made. AFC supports a network of organic suppliers and is a leader in their community as a naturally sustainable industry.
“The main challenges for women in East Timor remain deep poverty and the impact of conflict. Political participation and economic empowerment are particularly crucial as the conflict left nearly half the married Timorese women widowed and sole providers for their family.” – United Nations Women, East Timor (Timor-Leste)
The mission of AFC is to use Timorese-grown ingredients to make high-end natural health and beauty products and export them to an international market. The result is a boost in the local agriculture, the empowerment of the women in Timor-Leste, and the increase of the standard of living of their community.
In terms of personnel, Mariquita Fatima da Costa is the coordinator of Follow-up program of Centro Treinamento Integral e Desenvolvimento (CTID) Canossa Baucau.
Teresa Matos da Silva is the coordinator of the soap production team and there are currently three soap makers: Ana Paula, Brigida Ximenes and Domingas Cristina Freitas. Children get more calories per day and are better educated, parents receive healthcare and living conditions are improved, when women in developing countries are empowered.
Because Ai-Funan ingredients are sourced locally, there are a number of other communities that stand to benefit from the grown of AFC, including groups producing the virgin coconut oil (VCO), Candlenut oil, Coffee Guava Extract, silk thread, etc. AFC aims to build a production facility in the first year of this project, which will help to support local contractors and create a number of construction jobs.
By bringing naturally sustainable, healthy products to the nature-friendly consumers of the world, THF aims to create a win-win-win scenario. Nature is protected, the local community has a sustainable source for income generation and consumers enjoy healthy environmental products.
THF is based on the premises that local stakeholders who damage nature through unsustainable exploitation don’t do so because they dislike nature, but rather as a means to provide as much for their families as possible. By supporting community-based nature tourism and green entrepreneurs, Hummingfish can help local stakeholders create financial opportunities while at the same time protecting the very resources that “put food on the table.” If a community is generating income through dive tourism, they will have a financial incentive to protect the marine environment. If a group of women are making an all-natural handmade soap, using organic ingredients, then they are generating economic wealth while being naturally sustainable at the same time. If corn farmers in Thailand, who are losing their crops to wild, crop-raiding elephants can generate some tourism dollars with elephant watching tours, they might have a financial incentive to not kill those wild elephants.