Crafting a sustainable future in Sal

debora-abu-rayaToday’s blog is a guest article from Débora Abu-Raya, who is based in Sal, Cape Verde. Débora joined the TF team in July 2013 and has since been working to build our programme of work on the Island of Sal. Today, Débora updates us with the latest from the Cape Verdean Craft project. The project aims to increase the awareness, provision and competitive nature of the Cape Verdean craft offering in Sal, increasing sales to tourists to improve the livelihoods of artisans and help create a more unique tourism product. More on the project here.


As a Cape Verdean, I want to see tourists shopping for locally made crafts, and taking something home that is unique to the islands. Aside from the romantic notion that a little bit of Cape Verde will be spread around the world, it’s vital that local businesses are able to benefit from tourism, and that as a destination we’re providing a unique, quality experience, in order to protect our future in tourism.

Craft producer SalCape Verdean craft producers and vendors haven’t had it easy since the growth of tourism on Sal. Initial research showed that imports, lack of knowledge, lack of diversity of products and poor access to market have all contributed to a difficult market place. On top of that, there was very little communication between producers, vendors, regulatory bodies and the ministries. We were left asking questions such as…who could help? How could we help to protect the future of Cape Verdean craftspeople in Sal?

With backing from the Destination Council (you can read more on that here), we pulled together a strong group of influencers from both public and private sectors that would help us address some of the issues, and more importantly, co-ordinate efforts and take ownership in the long term.

A year on, I was so pleased to organise a workshop for local craftspeople, being run by two designers from M_EIA (University Institute of Art, Technology and Culture in Cape Verde). It focussed on meeting customer demand and customer service. Leão Lopes led the 5 day workshop, and recognised that due to the lack of formal training, traditional craftspeople in Cape Verde were getting lost in the market. We collaborated to design the training course to address issues found in the initial research.

Andrea Monteiro from LAlambicIt’s rewarding to see a year’s worth of research, planning and future-proofing reaching the local craftspeople. On the day, I spoke to craft producer Andrea Monteiro who said “This training helped me to have a more critical look into my work and to be aware to the need of constant innovation. We had an excellent trainer, who obviously knows very well the craft and design areas/sectors in Cape Verde, and that lead me to know more about what’s happening in other islands with craft and to get more info about designers that I can work with.”

The project is due to finish in December, and I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think we’re almost at the point where we can answer my earlier questions…

Who could help? Input is needed from many parties, and to list all those involved would be too long (you can read that here!) but to make this project work we needed, and got, buy in from all sectors – public, private and NGO.
How could we help protect the future of craft in Sal? Our approach was to first understand the issues, then bring together the people who influence those. Of course, upskilling the producers and vendors was important, but without a supporting network, it wouldn’t have a lasting effect.

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