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Craft Industries between Encouragement and Development

Sawt Al-Amal (Voice of Hope) – Afrah Ahmed

The handicraft industries in Yemen have diversified, as Yemen was well-renowned in the past for a number of handicraft products that preserve the unique characteristics of the Yemeni heritage. Throughout the ages, craft industries have undergone various stages of revival and development.

Unfortunately, since the outbreak of the conflict in Yemen, the condition of these industries has deteriorated, and the demand for them has declined due to the deterioration of the economic situation and the collapse of the infrastructure, which have had an impact on their status and present situation. Accordingly, the craft industries today are in dire need of plans and strategies to revive the craft industry market, and to benefit from them in supporting the national economy over the years.

 Craft Industries are in Dire Need of Government Support

According to Saber Wasel, a journalist, “The government must adopt a plan to provide support to craft industries and encourage those working in them to keep producing.” He added that establishing factories for these industries, training and qualifying artisans to market their products, and searching for capital will constitute a pivotal turning point in the development of craft industries and will provide a number of job opportunities. Thus, it will reduce the unemployment rate in the country.

“These handicraft industries are just alternatives that contribute to the disappearance of some products. In the past years, the Cleaning and Improvement Fund in Al-Hodeidah Governorate had replaced plastic waste bags with bags made of palm fronds, which were invented by the Yemeni people,” Wasel added. He clarified that one of the most essential elements for improving Yemen’s economy is supporting the craft industry. For this reason, some specialized academics have studied the requirements of promoting craft industries.

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Akwa’a, the head of the Mind Makers Center for Education, and a doctor of journalism and media at a Yemeni university in Sana’a, pointed out that the handicraft industry indicates aspects of the country’s identity. Therefore, the government can make great gains by providing support in this aspect. “According to studies, the global trade volume of handicrafts reaches a level of $100 billion. Meaning that crafts are of great importance to the government and society. Therefore, there are numerous requirements for encouraging craft industries, the most important of which is finding mechanisms for coordination between organizations to develop and encourage craft professions. In order for us to be able to obtain the largest possible number of professionals and craftsmen, organizations must play their role in financing and supporting skilled artisans and industrialists who have received craft training,” he added.

Coordination between the Ministries of Education and Technical Education

In his speech to “Sawt Al-Amal”, Al-Akwa’a emphasized the need for coordination between the “Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Technical Education and Vocational Training,” focusing on the technical and artisanal  side for students and developing a program that supports these topics. In addition to setting up training programs aimed at developing the abilities and skills of artisans, whether they are students or craftsmen. He added that the continued participation of craftsmen requires working on holding annual local and international festivals, activating their role in handicraft exhibitions, choosing distinctive handicraft industries, giving them the opportunity to participate globally, and supporting them financially and morally. “An essential step that comes within the plans to encourage craft industries is coordination with banks and financial institutions that support loans in order to finance such craft industries,” he continued.

Employing Systemic Thinking for Craft Industries

According to Dr. Abdul Ra’ouf Al-Rummanah, Dean of the Craft Development Center at the University of Al-Hodeidah, “One of the requirements for encouraging craft industries is the systemic thinking of these industries, which implies that raw materials must be provided for these industries, particularly the textile craft industries. This is due to the fact that the Yemenis were the ones who invented the science of the textile industry in the world, and that was during the reign of King (Tuba’a), who was the first to clothe the Holy Kaaba with cotton fabric”. Dr. Al-Rummaneh added that one of the greatest problems that the textile industry struggles with is the lack of multiple and diverse threads to supply the textile industries of the local environment, in addition to importing raw materials from abroad. This adds a significant cost to the craftsmen, because the cost of shipping the threads that come from Indonesia, in most cases, exceeds the cost of the threads themselves, thereby increasing the compounded cost. However, it has been noted that the provision of threads through the local cotton textile factory, along with the supply of acrylic material used in specific proportions for the production of threads, is a solution to restore the prosperity of such industries for more than a million workers, technicians and professionals in this industry.

Providing and Developing Machines

Al-Rummanah mentioned that the development and provision of machinery and manufacturing facilities by the craft industries is necessary to improve the productivity of artisans and diversify craft production. He added that the primitive textile laboratories, as well as the honey production laboratories and cells, require development in performance, diversity in production, and the provision of an artisanal product that meets the requirements and needs of the local and foreign markets.

However, because handicraft products offer promotional opportunities and ensure a growth in sales, particularly in international markets, the development of production and improvements to packaging is one of the most significant factors that contribute to supporting these industries. “This step is of great importance, as it is an inevitable result of improving and providing raw materials, developing production machines, and trying to add the required improvements to packaging, so that the product becomes more attractive and elegant, which reflects the consumer’s taste and artistic beauty, and increase its demand,” he added.

Yahya Muhim, a former professor at the Media Department at the University of Al-Hodeidah, explained that craft industries represent the identity of the Yemeni people, and the source of livelihood for thousands of Yemeni families who inherited these crafts from their ancestors. Furthermore, it is an integral part of the culture of any society, especially the eastern societies that are rich in this craft. He continued, “Since the beginning of time, man began using his hands and elements of his environment in making crafts. He used clay to construct cooking, eating, and drinking utensils. He also used it to build his home, shaping it into the most beautiful designs that suit the environment.” He added, “Today, handicraft industries have primarily become a tourism industry, reflecting the civilization and culture of any society, and varies according to the various Yemeni cultures. For instance, clay-based crafts can be found in plains and deserts, whereas stone-based crafts can be found in mountains. In agricultural areas, there are industries that serve agriculture and assist in it such as plows, pottery and urns patterned in color. Currently, handicraft industries have become the basis of commercial and economic activity for large segments of Yemenis, who depend on them for their livelihood, and the popular weekly markets are filled with them.”.

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