ACTIF Members: Raising AwarenessACTIF Members: Raising Awareness and Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives in East Africa
Jas Bedi, a Kenyan textile and apparel entrepreneur, is a strong proponent of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the preferential trade opportunities that it provides. USAID East Africa has been instrumental in developing trade linkage networks such as the African Cotton & Textile Industries Federation (ACTIF) that help Bedi make worldwide connections in the textile and apparel industry. One of his proudest achievements is helping international firms give back to the local community. Global retail giant Tesco has partnered with Bedi to make school uniforms that are eco-friendly through its Ethical Clothing initiative. This year Tesco has taken that partnership one step further and has launched its “Buy One, Give One Free” promotion. For each pair of trousers sold in the U.K., Tesco will give a Kenyan child a school uniform skirt, shirt or pair of trousers.
Bedi continues to break new ground in his quest for new product innovations that will fit the U.S. market under AGOA. His wife, Viva, has taken up the challenge and has initiated a product line under the "FEED Project". The FEED Project started in 2006 when acclaimed model and activist Lauren Bush designed a bag to benefit the United Nations World Food Programme's (WFP) School Feeding operations. Inspired by the aesthetic of the bulk bags of food distributed by WFP, she created the FEED 1 bag (and then later, the FEED 2 bag), a reversible burlap and cotton bag stamped with "FEED the children of the world" and the number "2" to signify that each bag purchased feeds two children who are in school for one year.
Viva established a workshop in Nakuru, Kenya to produce these bags, which are handcrafted by a coop of women and deaf Kenyan artisans. Each bag is hand-beaded using traditional techniques and is made with natural burlap and the iconic Kenyan Masai tribal fabric. The bags are made as eco-friendly and fairly as possible, and the workshop is audited and certified as a fair labor facility.
“As a designer, Kenya is really inspirational,” says Bush, who has visited the country twice. “We’re trying to highlight the traditional Kenyan culture.” The FEED initiative has raised nearly $3 million for WFP. FEED 2 Kenya bags are sold exclusively through Bergdorf Goodman.