McColm & Company delivered a project designed to accelerate quality jewelry production in Afghanistan. Jewelry making is a core artisanal skill that represents immense opportunity for job creation and niche sector growth in Afghanistan. McCO designed a rapid impact sector survey and responsive training methodology to develop a baseline of existing capabilities and quality. We then leveraged a production order from a social enterprise as a training and capacity building tool.
Jewelry production quality improved dramatically during McCO’s engagement, as did understanding of international quality standards and customer service expectations. Consider that a single company placing a single medium sized jewelry production order provided employment and generated a living wage income for 38 Afghan artisans at the primary level for 30 days, as well as unknown numbers of secondary and tertiary beneficiaries. Now consider that most jewelry companies place orders at least three times per year – collections for Spring/Summer, Winter/Fall and Resort – and the result is that attracting just four companies to move their production to Kabul would have the potential to maintain the businesses of a quarter of the known Kabul sector each year.
- Low minimum quantity order requirements: Factories in the major jewelry production centers of India, China and Thailand require high minimum quantity per style orders (250-300 pieces per style) which is too large of an investment for jewelry designers and brands that are small or just starting out. The Kabul jewelry production sector is still developing and the workshops are willing to take orders at low per piece minimums (20-50 pieces per style) in order to prove themselves, grow their businesses and establish Afghanistan as a competitor in jewelry production.
- Afghanistan poised to become a Fair Trade jewelry production hub: Afghan jewelry production workshops operate independently and large factories don’t yet exist. This artisanal working style can be leveraged to differentiate the Afghan market and build a niche by pursuing Fair Trade certification. Working conditions are pleasant, with workers enjoying tea and ample breaks throughout the day. Earnings for skilled workers in Kabul averaged $300 per artisan during our engagement – that’s 420% more than the average Afghan annual income and 245% more than the official Afghan minimum wage (5,000 Afs per month).
- Leveraging business for development accelerates results: Our methodology leveraged a production order from a social enterprise as a training tool. The participating workshops understood that if they delivered high quality product on time, then there would be future business from this company. This motivated the workshops to do their best work and deliver on time and on budget.