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 handicraft and locally made products sector. Four key steps were identified through workshops with  takeholders as diverse as artisans, designers, manufacturers, design and art school teachers, NGOs, governmental agencies, handicraft workshop operators as well as shop procurers, tour operators and Hotels.

The Mauritius handicraft and locally-made products sector for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) has seen years of decline due to policies favouring cheap imported products over local products, a lack of support in developing entrepreneurship, as well as difficulty in accessing the market on the island. As highlighted by the stakeholders at the SUS-ISLAND Project kickoff meeting, this situation should be changed and the sector should be empowered 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 the task to support the  evelopment of authentic, sustainable, locally-made products that are integrated into the tourism supply chain. Together with local partners, organisations and other key stakeholders, the team identified mismatches of needs and offers within the ecosystem of this sector. In a workshop they further defined the gaps that need to be filled and the processes as well as partnerships that need to be developed within this project but anchored in the existing ecosystem to ensure long-term success. Besides these structural changes, the CSCP broke down the process into four steps for the artisans and close stakeholders that we will be integral for the upcoming workshops early next year:

  1. Product: Train artisans, designers and stakeholders on sustainability criteria and locally available resources (natural as well as waste) 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, which 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.

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Improving Sustainaible Tourism In Mauritius through Greening the Value Chain of Tour Operators (SUS-ISLAND) is a Switch Africa grand project funded by the European Commission and led by Mauritius Tourism Authority. Its objective is to promote sustainaible tourism in Mauritius by demonstration and scaling up a self-sustaining mechanism for improving  sustainaibility impacts along the value chain improving awareness and market of sustainaible tourism products.