Volume 19 Number 6
Cards for An Eco-Friendly Christmas
01 December 2006
WATABARAN, which means environmental sustainability in Nepali, is a fair-trade company established by Nepalese and Swedish youth.
WATABARAN, which means environmental sustainability in Nepali, is a fair-trade company established by Nepalese and Swedish youth. When its founder, Bjorn Soderberg, first arrived in Nepal in 2001, the environmental state of the capital city, Katmandu, disturbed him immensely.
The streets of Katmandu were drowned in scrap and litter, rotting dead animals, plastics, batteries and food. Though Soderberg had come to work as a volunteer teacher he couldn’t help worrying about the city’s condition. ‘I saw the magnificent Nepali ecosystem decaying in mountains of garbage and clouds of exhaust fumes,’ he says.
One day, he had to carry banana peel all the way home, since he was unable to find a wastebin in the streets. This incident inspired him to take a serious initiative. ‘I couldn’t just observe this passively. I gathered my friends and started doing something about it,’ says Soderberg.
Watabaran recycles city wastes to produce paper products such as handmade Christmas cards, calendars, notebooks, paper bags and gift boxes.
Nepal is a difficult place to earn a living, not just because of political unrest but other social conflicts. When Watabaran started four years ago, it only had three members of staff, but it has grown over the years. Today it employs eight men and eight women who are able to help their families. Some of the women used to work at home and some of the men had little chance of getting a job because they had not developed any skills at school.
The company follows a fair-trade policy, which means it gives a good salary to its employees along with such other facilities as paid maternity leave, union rights and medical insurance.
Kundra, an artist who works at Watabaran says, ‘I would like to run my own company in the future, in order to give others the same opportunity that I myself got in Watabaran.’
The joint-stock company exports its products to different organisations and companies all over the world. The profits are divided between the staff and reinvestment. Presently, it is training two street children to make paper handicrafts.