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    ITC in action: Boosting Exports of Creative Products


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2009 

    ITC plays a significant role in building capacity towards the export of creative products, particularly crafts, from developing and transition countries. ITC's assistance focuses on facilitating market access through new technologies and streamlining supply chains; supporting the creative sector by promoting trade opportunities and enhancing export competitiveness; as well as by encouraging the integration of the cultural dimension into national trade development policies.

    Mongolian felt fashion accessories on the world market

    The success of ITC's Export-led Poverty Reduction Programme (EPRP) project in Mongolia is paving the way for the country's wool producers to capitalize on tourists' demand for felt products and succeed in overseas markets.

    As Mongolia boasts more than 24 million head of livestock and 10.6 million sheep, the processing and export of wool and felted fashion presented opportunities to generate income and create employment for poor nomadic and urban communities. In collaboration with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM), EPRP launched a project in late 2004 aimed at improving the livelihoods of 250 beneficiaries, 90 per cent of whom were women, through the organization of a cooperative union of ten producer groups in the provinces of Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan and Selenge. As a result of the growing flux of international tourists to Mongolia over the past decade, reaching 440,000 in 2008, the union opened the Tsagaan Alt Wool Shop in Ulaanbaatar.

    Innovative product design and strict quality management were two integral factors to the project's success. Initially, the shop sold mostly decorative felt gifts and souvenir products, such as stuffed animals, targeting the tourist market. Nowadays, shoes and fashion accessories are the best-selling products. Sales have increased significantly as a result of the superior sales outlet, product quality and training for producers in designing useful products, such as slippers, to meet Western demand. Another critical factor in the project's success was the involvement of NLM as a project partner. This non-governmental organization has long-standing experience in technical cooperation related to the wool sector and shares ITC's objectives of linking poor producers to markets so as to reduce poverty.

    With support from ITC's EPRP in creating new product collections and training producers, the Tsagaan Alt Wool Shop has become a tourist attraction, with a turnover of US$ 15,000 a month, and supports the 300 members of the union. Bolstered by local sales from the tourist market and with the assistance of EPRP, the cooperative union has started a successful export business to China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Norway. With NLM and EPRP's involvement in the project now complete, the cooperative union has become autonomous and has generated enough profits to finance its attendance of the 2010 Ambiente Fair in Germany (sharing a stand with another EPRP project partner, the Cambodian Craft Cooperation).

    Lao silk weavers open sales outlets

    Weaving and wearing silk are deeply rooted in cultural and social traditions in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The weavers, mostly women, produce scarves, table runners and sets, handbags and cushion covers. However, the lack of marketing skills and knowledge of international market requirements in terms of designs and product quality, has left producers poor and unable to tap into the potential revenues of silk production.

    The ITC's EPRP pilot project attempted to reverse this trend, and it is attracting young women who, until now, had not been interested in weaving. The aim of project's activities is to reduce poverty in the targeted rural areas, create employment opportunities, generate income and so ensure that silk tradition is kept alive.

    The project has reached a new milestone with the opening of five retail outlets and the addition of a fifth village to the programme. In 2007, the project was launched in collaboration with ITC's national partner, the Lao Handicraft Association, and four pilot weaver communities from south of Pakse.

    In order to improve the quality and production of silk, ITC together with Varitha Handicraft Silk and Cotton, has helped to build capacity through training in weaving skills and in colouring. Superior production equipment and raw materials have also been provided to improve productivity and product quality. In addition, in order to assist the project partner on a more permanent basis, two young designers who graduated from Geneva's School of Art and Design are currently spending four months on the site to work with the weavers and the project partner on creation of new designs, colouration and marketing tools.

    As a result of the project, poor rural weavers in these villages produce and market high-quality silk products that meet the requirements of foreign markets and increase their income. The project was always intended to extend to other communities and the addition of Ban Saman in 2009 is evidence of its success. Retail outlets have opened in Pakse, at the international airport and a nearby hotel, in Ban Sapay village and at Vat Phou, a UNESCO World Heritage site. With these developments, income from the project should increase by 50 per cent over the next year and allow the project to expand into more communities across Laos.

    Inter-Agency programme targets mozambique's creative industries

    In Mozambique, a programme run jointly by UNESCO, the International Labour Organization, ITC and three other government agencies is aiming to develop creative industries and community-based cultural tourism. Targeting Maputo, Nampula and Inhambane provinces, the programme works to promote linkages with the private sector and improve the value chain of creative industries. Due to weak institutional and legislative support, unstable quality and an alarmingly high rate of piracy and copyright infringement (estimated to be as high as 80 per cent), the creative industries sector in Mozambique has stagnated.

    ITC has analysed the craft sector's value chain and carried out a needs assessment among artisans and musicians. One of the outcomes of this study are model contracts for the sector, which will be disseminated in 2010, in addition to export marketing and intellectual property training which is planned to be undertaken in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization. ITC has also outlined an export and market development strategy for 2010 and 2011 aimed at strengthening the sector's international competitiveness through Mozambique's craft association, the Centro de Estudos e Desenvolvimento de Artesanato.