How the Eve Branson Foundation is supporting artisans and livelihoods in the High Atlas Mountains

Eve Branson Foundation
Eve Branson Foundation
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
16 August 2023

The Eve Branson Foundation (EBF) was founded in 2005 by Richard Branson’s late mum, Eve, to create opportunities for local people in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco.  

A large part of the foundation’s work centres on artisanal training – teaching local people skills to create products that are sold, with at least 40% of the purchase price of products going directly to the artisans who crafted them. 

Eve Branson Foundation
Eve Branson Foundation

EBF runs two artisanal training workshops – the Tansghart Woodwork Centre and the Tamgounssi Weaving Workshop. Nestled in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, they provide local people with the training, tools and space to learn and share new skills.  

“I wanted to start working on small, craft items when I came to the Tansghart Woodwork Centre. I had no experience in carpentry. My family own a small plot of land and we are dependent on fruit tree agriculture, but we are not woodworkers,” Houssain, a trainee at the Tansghart Woodwork Centre, said. “Tansghart was my home village which I grew up in. It’s a nice place to live in the mountains. There was other work when I dropped out school like doing auto mechanics or bicycle repairs – but now I want to be a woodworker. If someone shows me the correct way to build things: doors, tables, carving – everything is woodworking!”  

Eve Branson Foundation
Eve Branson Foundation

Fatima Imni, who now works as a supervisor at the EBF shop, added: “When I started learning in the craft centre, I discovered more about myself. When my handmade items were sold and I made some money, I felt a sense of independence for the first time. 

“Craftmaking is a way of expressing my Berber identity and to tell a story. It has helped me change my life for the better. I can buy certain things that I would like, I can make my own clothes and I feel less worried about the future.” 

Eve Branson Foundation
Eve Branson Foundation

Products created by artisans trained through EBF’s programmes are showcased at Virgin Limited Edition’s properties including the nearby Moroccan retreat, Kasbah Tamadot, and the recently opened Son Bunyola hotel. Both feature soft furnishings that have been handmade at the Tamgounssi Weaving centre. Every stitch is by hand – the large hand-knotted rugs, featuring Berber geometric motifs, take one of the weavers at the Tamgounssi Weaving Centre around eight days to weave onto a large horizontal loom, using natural wool fibres. 

Bring Berber products into your home 

There are a few ways that you can purchase products made by EBF-trained artisans for your own home. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Kasbah Tamadot, you could also visit the foundation and purchase items from the shop in Morocco. 

But if you’re not going to be in Morocco anytime soon – there are still options for getting your hands on some of the incredible items that the artisans have made. Berber Living, a small boutique in Norfolk, UK, now stocks a small range of products from EBF artisans.  

Owner John Pryor said: “Berber Living has supported Moroccan Artisans since 2007 and we are passionate about their extraordinary workmanship. This is evident with the Eve Branson Foundation and it is wonderful to have the opportunity of working with them and selling their artisan products here in the UK. It is vital to keep the traditions of the artisans work alive, which in turn enable the local communities to benefit too.” 

Also, Virgin Red members can use their Virgin Points to purchase an exclusive range of EBF products through the app. The Virgin Red collection includes gorgeous hand-embroidered napkins, a beautiful table runner, and an apron perfect for your little sidekick in the kitchen. 

There’s a wooden camel stick game, which is sure to entertain this summer, and a gorgeous wooden bookmark, to keep your place in your beach read. 

Not a Virgin Red member yet? Join today to start earning Virgin Points to spend on EBF products and more. 

Visit the Eve Branson Foundation to learn more.