|GATE - 1986/2 - Rural Crafts (GTZ GATE, 1986, 56 p.)|
Rural Crafts and Trades
The craft and trade sector in rural areas of the Third World encompasses the village blacksmith who manufactures simple agricultural equipment, the mechanic who repairs pumps and engines in a shed, and the family who produce clay pots or twist ropes from sisal using the simplest of tools. What they all have in common is the fact that traditional technology is largely based on the utilization of local resources and the small-scale craftsmen and tradesmen have practically no access to formal education, credits or government support programmes. Poor productivity, low or no regular source of income due to the weak and greatly fluctuating purchasing power of the rural population, distance from suppliers and markets, and lack of incentives to innovate are the reasons for the unstable situation of small and very small businesses. The craft and trade sector in rural areas is, as a rule, production on the periphery.
At the same time, however, it is also production for the periphery, since these businesses supply important goods and services for the rural population. The rural craft and trade business is often the only one within reach of the farmers. The level of production and the products are adapted to the economic and social conditions of the region.
The structure of small trade and rural handicrafts offers some vast advantages which makes them able to assert themselves as a stable sector in the trading economies of developing countries. The structure is distinguished by great flexibility, fast reaction to changing market conditions, and close contact to client; less original capital is needed and in addition, the necessary capital and supply of equipment is comparatively limited.
To date, the promotion of rural craft and trade businesses has been underrated as a development policy objective. The promotion of the rural craft and trade sector was primarily seen as contributing to urban development and as the basis of an industrialization process. Discussion concerning craft and trade businesses in rural areas focussed mainly on their potential contribution towards mechanizing agriculture.
The secondary role played by this sector in development policy is mainly due to the fact that the rural craft and trade sector, like small-scale industry in the informal urban sector, is not viewed by donor and recipient countries as a vehicle for overcoming underdevelopment. In addition, due to its very nature, this sector is not easily reached by more usual promotion activities. Despite the significance of small industrial or craft and trade businesses, little progress has been made in the discussion concerning the methods, concepts and practical means of promoting the rural craft and trade sector in the Third World.
The question as to which fields of the craft and trade sector should be promoted in rural areas and which set of tools should be used in order to meet the needs of the target group and stabilize or expand employment and income opportunities remains largely unresolved.
In the development policy debate there is a large measure of consensus that, especially in promoting small industrial or craft and trade business - both in the informal urban sector and the rural sector - the correct and most expedient path lies in strengthening self-help groups.
What is abundantly clear is that this sector should only be promoted as an integral measure; above all this entails ensuring specific contact to the potential client through the offer of low price products.
At the same time, the traditional organizational form of rural handicrafts should be respected so that craftsmen themselves can determine their own need for assistance.
Naturally, apart from the positive aspects there are also problems, one of the most important being the acceptance of handicrafts by the clients, i.e., the difficulty of competing with industrial products. One of the best examples is that of traditional pottery competing with plastic vessels. In addition, craft traditions have often been destroyed or annihilated; and for many people, these traditions are rarely regarded as an attractive field of employment.