Since the 1970’s, the local crafts industry has faced continuous decline with the mechanisation of fishing boats and the emergence of tourism, which brought with it alternative employment opportunities. Today, local crafts are confined of vendibility in a tourism market which is increasingly being flooded with imported souvenirs and crafts from East Asia . This limited access to authentic Maldivian handicrafts in the tourism market results from lack of transport and marketing networks, high costs of production due to traditional techniques and the non-existence of a regulatory policy framework to protect the industry from competition abroad.
In response to the December 2004 tsunami, UNDP supported several handicrafts development activities, aimed at providing the island communities a means to recover the economic losses incurred. The initiative focused primarily on the promotion of sustainable income generation by engaing in partnership with the tourism industry. This partnership opened up avenues; for the launch of a handicrafts pilot project in Lhaviyani Atoll, opportunities for handicrafts training, and replacement of tools used for handicrafts making that were damaged or lost to the tsunami in Dhaalu, Thaa and Laamu Atoll.
It became evident through this support that local handicraft making is an important link that can foster partnership between island communities and the tourism sector. It further shows potential as a sustainable source of revenue for Maldivian island communities. UNDP has therefore committed, through its new Country Programme 2008-2010, to continue to support communities in the revival of handicrafts making as a livelihood activity. Areas of support will include;
- Expansion of production outlets with modern facilities – mainly machinery and tools to improve scale and cost effectiveness of handicrafts making.
- Conduction of technical training programmes using modern techniques of handicraft making in jewellery making, wood turning, pyrography and lacquer work.
- Formulation of a marketing strategy, based on a market study compiled in early 2008, and execution of a marketing campaign to promote authentic Maldivian handicrafts within the Maldives tourism industry.
- Development of a national regulatory framework for the protection of the local handicrafts industry, in close coordination with the Government of Maldives.
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