Between 2009 and 2011, this trilateral cooperation project (involving Brazil, São Tomé and Príncipe and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries - CPLP) sought to contribute to the socioeconomic development of São Tomé and Príncipe by generating employment and income in the craft segment. With a focus on the creation of high quality handmade products inspired by the local culture and natural features of the small African archipelago, the project resulted in the creation of the Uê Tela ('look at the land') cooperative, bringing together trained artisans and apprentices within the scope of the project.
The generation of jobs and income and social inclusion, especially of young people and women, are important challenges for the socioeconomic development of São Tomé and Príncipe. Similar to other small island developing states, São Tomé and Príncipe has a fragile, limited and little diversified economy; currently, more than 90% of investment expenditure in the country comes from Official Development Assistance. The largely informal tertiary sector accounts for approximately 60% of GDP and employs 60% of the active population (the public sector being the main employer in the country). At the same time, unemployment, with a rate of 14%, affects mainly women and young people (more than 60% of the population is under 25 years old). About 50% of the population live below the poverty line and around 15% live in extreme poverty.
On the other hand, it was identified that, in addition to suffering from its low added value and lack of professionalism, the production of San Francisco handicrafts did not show a particular differentiation from what has traditionally been done on the African continent, and lacked connections to the consumer markets external.
The main objectives of the project were to provide training and technical improvement for the creation and development of artisan products representative of the country's cultural identity. Targeting consolidated artisans and apprentices (mainly young and female), the project sought to provide them with new sources of income, through the reinvigoration of artisanal production for domestic consumption and exports.
With the involvement of Brazilian and Santonian designers and artisans, the project encompassed three phases:
(1) the training of artisans and apprentices in the production of handicrafts, focusing on the areas of embroidery, plant dyeing, paper, carpentry, sculpture and sewing. This stage emphasized the technical quality and originality of the pieces produced, emphasizing the use of raw materials and local motifs in the design of the products. It also included the organization of groups of artisans (also trained in social entrepreneurship), taking into account their vocations;
(2) training in the complementary axes of management, marketing, communication and environmental preservation. This stage also included the acquisition of machines and equipment for the training workshops (as well as the training of technicians for their maintenance and repair) and the training of local instructors in the various techniques developed, which later assumed the role of multipliers; and
(3) the elaboration of promotional material and dissemination activities, mainly focused on the foreign market.
The concrete results of the initiative include:
- the training of about 150 artisans and apprentices from all over the country in the production of competitive handicrafts and cultural roots;
- the creation of a shared management structure involving workshop leaders, local coordinators, general design coordination and style coordination;
- the preparation of a manual of procedures related to the complementary axes of the project, supporting the quality of production and the consolidation of the initiative;
- the formation of the Uê Tela cooperative by the trained artisans, to continue the project and ensure its sustainability. Installed at the Institute of Youth (in the capital, São Tomé), the cooperative had technical support to start its activities and currently works autonomously;
- the launching of two collections of handicraft products (including decoration objects, furniture, paper articles made from banana trunks, dyed cotton fabrics using bark, clothing and fashion accessories): "Fédu cu Món" by hand ') and' Modo Fenón '(' our way of doing '), published through bilingual catalogs (in Portuguese and English); and
- the establishment of distribution and marketing channels: a social store in São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as sales abroad (some of the products are marketed in Brazil).
The artisanal activity fostered by the project has already become the main means of subsistence for most cooperative artisans (especially women). When it was approved by the CPLP in 2011, the initiative was a pilot project that, depending on its results, could be extended to other Lusophone countries. Thus, Angola and Cape Verde have already expressed interest in replicating the South-South cooperation experience in the field of artisanal production.
Supported by: Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), CPLP and Government of São Tomé and Príncipe
On the Brazilian side: Instituto Mazal
On the santomense side: Youth Institute (Ministry of Youth and Sport)
Associate, Instituto Mazal