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Of Camels, Sahrawi and fossil-necklaces… or just a beautiful tale

Published 20th January 2010 - 0 comments - 2718 views -

I posted this on the blog of the fair-trade shop I am working for. With the upcoming Think3:developing world I thought it would not be a very bad idea to cross-post this here even though it is a bit off-topic. 


Working at a fair-trade shop can make you smile once in a while. Most of the time we sell products, previously purchased at a distributer. We know, somewhere in the world they have been sold at fair conditions and that’s where the story ends. But sometimes it gets personal. 


Fossils at a University

Walking through the cold building of the Free University of Amsterdam you might stumble upon own little fair-trade shop, standing there like a warm campfire in the middle of a gray and busy street – a stress-free bubble. Entering, a variety of products will catch your attention like banana beers or woody cups, loads of greeting cards and delicious chocolate – all fairly traded. But now there is one new product that is particularly interesting, especially unique and personal. On a table next to some present packages you will find fossils, little creatures that some tens of millions of years ago used to be alive diving through the ancient sea. Now they can be worn as necklaces. 
A beautiful thing that might soon be hanging around your neck there, sure, but knowing how this former life, now frozen in a stone, could make its way into the basement of some university in Amsterdam might be considered even more special.
The Sahara is often seen as this yellow and hostile part of the map. In our minds it is lifeless. Well the fact is: it is absolutely not. (Outside of this beautiful scenery when once in a while some rain falls on the dry land.) People are regularly crossing the eternal sands. For them their camels are a crucial part of life. They give milk and transport their goods. Without these astonishing animals that evolution has equipped with a unique water storage system, the Sahrawi would be in difficulties. Ironically enough a new virus, transmitted by a kind of mosquitoes is threatening to dramatically reduce the camel population at the moment. But there is hope. A vaccination has been developed that can save them; unfortunately at a (converted) price of 50€. 


Some necklaces for the camels

Here the story comes full circle: the Sahara is a great place to find fossils. And you guessed it: Sahrawi women transform them into exactly those necklaces some of you are already wearing. So far our little fair-trade shop has bought two packages of 50 € each from the Sahara nomads and we are currently reselling them at a price of 6.50€. In other words: because here in Amsterdam more people walk around with unique fossils around their necks, in the Sahara two more camels will, well, continue to walk around. 

The symbolic camel

You might think that these two animals are not a big achievement, that it is a minor impact compared to all the problems this world is facing. Here is why I think it still is important.
We should never forget the fate of the individual in our ambitious struggle to save the world. We will never be able to save all humans or animals, obviously. But this is not the mission. I think if you ask the camels and their owners they will be thankful. That is something to be considered, right?
And well… if anything…it made us smile.


Category: Animal Kingdom, Sustainable Development, | Tags: fair-trade, desert, sahrawi, camels,


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