Fair Trade that Preserves the Heart of the African Bush

Tribal Textiles, an artisan cooperative in Mfuwe, Zambia, is creating jobs and preserving the art of the African bush. The cooperative was started more than 20 years ago by Gillie Lightfoot, who was inspired to experiment with various techniques and dyes while she was living in a safari camp in Zambia. She drew ideas for the textiles from traditional African designs and the wildlife around her.

Today, Tribal Textiles employs more than 100 Zambians, and has become one of the largest employers in Eastern Zambia. Different artists work together to draw the designs, paint the fabric, and sew the pieces together. Each textile is entirely handmade.

The artisans work with a goal to preserve traditional art, be in harmony with nature, and benefit the local community. While Mfuwe is an area with high unemployment, Tribal Textiles seeks to provide sustainable employment and trade training, and to provide a good working environment. Additionally, the cooperative has given more to the community by co-founding the local school, Malimba, which currently educates more than 160 children.

Tribal Textiles has small and humble beginnings—first selling products to local safari lodges. Today, their products are available in more than 20 countries worldwide. Despite their global presence, the artisans are committed to maintaining the heart of Tribal Textiles which their website states, “ will always remain in the African bush with the Zambian people.”

Artisans honor local traditions and wildlife

The Tribal Textiles artisans work with Dsenyo, a Jesus’ Economy partner. Dsenyo is an organization loyal to the cause of alleviating the suffering of the impoverished. They do this by teaching local artisans self-sustainable trades so they can better their economic situations and provide for their families. Dsenyo is also dedicated to using local and environmentally friendly materials that can be artfully repurposed and recycled for continuous use.

Dsenyo works alongside artisans to improve living situations for impoverished people, promote a holistic economy, respect cultural traditions, and build global relationships. Together, Jesus' Economy and Dsenyo are empowering artisans from countries throughout Africa and Latin America.


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Charlotte Van Werven
Charlotte Van Werven


Staff Writer for Jesus' Economy