Union of Peasants for Self Development

Artisans working with the Union of Peasants for Self Development (UPAP) make traditional Tuareg handicrafts. The Tuareg, nomadic herders of Saharan north and west Africa, now also work as traders or cultivate crops in fertile oases. Tuareg artisans of UPAP use income from craft production to supplement their subsistence farming and other livelihoods.


In 1993, young craftspeople in Terhazer, a village near Agadez, the largest city of northern Niger, organized to create leather handicrafts and silver jewelry. After traveling through France, selling from backpacks for several years, Illies Mouhmoud and his friends organized formally and began UPAP in 1999. UPAP now has shops in Niamey, Niger's capital, and in Agadez, and participates in local African fairs. UPAP also sells to fair trade organizations in France and North America.Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from UPAP since 2002.


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Illies Mouhmoud's Story

Illies Mouhmoud, a master silver artisan, crafts traditional Tuareg jewelry in his village of Terhazer, near Agadez, Niger. Using a lost-wax method to cast the silver, Mouhmoud first creates a wax mold, forms clay around the mold and pours molten silver into the hardened clay. Using hand tools, he etches traditional designs and adds ebony inlay or jewels to create the finished piece. Mouhmoud says,



"Our work is very important to us, as it is what enables us to live, to help each other and to meet the needs of our family."



Mouhmoud reported that a Ten Thousand Villages order helped him and others provide for their families during a famine in Niger. Mouhmoud said, "The artists were able to help their families in the most affected areas of Niger. And being able to support ourselves rather than simply receive aid builds our dignity."

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