The union RWANDA ART is an organization of and for artisans. It is based in the city of Butare, Huye District, Southern Province of Rwanda. RWANDA ART currently represents three large production and sales cooperatives from different regions in the South. Its principal objective is to promote and to distribute Rwandan crafts according to fair trade principles, that is, above all, guaranteeing the fair distribution of income to the artisans. In addition, RWANDA ART supports its members through the provision of technical and entrepreneurial trainings as well as through micro-credits for small business ventures. The union further facilitates access to raw materials and sensitizes its members to the limited availability of these natural resources. RWANDA ART generally acts on behalf and for the benefit of the artisans it represents. The majority of the artisans of the Butare region live in the countryside, "on the hills", which is why it is quite difficult for them to place their products on the market. It was for this reason that they got together in 1997 and - with support from the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) - founded the Coopérative des Producteurs Artisanaux de Butare (COPABU). This production and sales cooperative is located in the center of Butare and its main objective is to provide a platform for the commercialization of these products. While gradually acquiring experience, the COPABU has been able to establish quality criteria and introduce a control system, so as to guarantee customers the adequate handling of their orders, be it in terms of quantity or quality. The COPABU also acts as an intermediary between customers and artisans. The prices of the products, however, are determined solely by the artisans, according to the respective material costs, time spent, and expertise.
The economic impact of this project in the countryside has led the GTZ to encourage artisans in two former provinces, Gikongoro and Gitarama, to create structures comparable to those in Butare (where federations had been founded at the end of 2003), including above all a sales counter, so as to give member artisans direct access to the market.
With the subsidies provided by the GTZ, these new federations have promoted the products of their members, have offered technical and entrepreneurial trainings, and have encouraged artisans to further organize themselves.
Due to the country's policy of encouraging peasants to join forces by forming cooperatives, and in view of the forthcoming law governing cooperatives, the German Cooperation initiates organizational structures that can easily be transformed into cooperatives. Consequently, in the former city of Gitarama (now called Muhanga) and in the former city of Gikongoro (now called Nyamagabe) federations have been turned into production and sales cooperatives for handicrafts.