Four Steps to Empower Mauritius’s Handicraft Sector

How can the handicraft sector in Mauritius be empowered to be vibrant, sustainable and integrated into the tourism value chain? That was the question we reflected on as the SUS-ISLAND Project team met with different actors from the local arts and crafts sector. Workshops with stakeholders identified four key steps. Input came from a diverse group of participants, including artists, designers, manufacturers, school teachers of the arts, NGOs, governmental agencies, handicraft workshop operators, as well as shop procurers, tour operators and hotels.

The local arts and crafts sector of Mauritius has seen years of decline among small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). This is due to policies favouring cheap imported items rather than local products, a lack of support in developing entrepreneurship, as well as difficulty in accessing the market on the island. During the SUS-ISLAND Project kickoff meeting, stakeholders highlighted that this situation must change in order to empower the sector to develop.

In partnership with SME Mauritius, Daren Moodely of the Tourism Authority and Nikola Berger, Designer at the CSCP, worked together in Mauritius in mid-September, to focus on supporting the development of authentic, sustainable, locally-made products that are integrated into the tourism supply chain.

Together with local partners, organisations and key stakeholders, the team identified a mismatch of needs and offers within the ecosystem of this sector. In a workshop they defined the gaps that need to be filled and the processes, as well as partnerships, that need to be developed within this project whilst being anchored in the existing ecosystem to ensure long-term success. Besides these structural changes, the CSCP broke down the process into four steps that will be integral for the upcoming workshops for the artisans and stakeholders early next year:

  1. Product: Train artisans, designers and stakeholders on sustainability criteria and locally available resources (natural as well as waste products) and support development of products that are in demand
  2. Storytelling: Train artisans, designers and stakeholders in storytelling to brand their products and differentiate them from the imports
  3. Facilitating Access to Market: Fostering collaboration through joint workshops and setting up pilots with various stakeholders to promote access to market, full integration in the tourism value chain and feedback mechanisms for long term success
  4. Creating Experiences: Creating exchanges with tourists that go beyond selling a product, like a creative course to learn a skill from the artisan, skill swap models and other innovative formats that promote personal connections between tourists and locals and create more value for the artisans as well as tour operators, hotels and the local market

The handicraft team of the project has identified some key enablers and a wider group of the locally-made products ecosystem, who will come together to hold a workshop on the four steps in the first half of 2020. The workshop will also be the starting point for 5 to 10 pilot projects consisting of small teams of representatives of the handicraft value chain as well as supporting agents to successfully bring locally made products to the market while learning what all actors need to succeed in the long term.

For further questions contact Nikola Berger.