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Saturday, 22 September 2007

Handicrafts powered development....

Kashikulu writes on the State of despondence Part 1 – Unemployment with the following interesting proposal:

"Government must support and promote arts and crafts for the rural population. There is a market for Zambian paintings and traditional crafts in the west. Government, through its missions abroad must identify these markets and link producers to the market."
The Handicrafts Association of Zambia would certainly welcome a more proactive approach from Government in this area. Peru's hat making provides a good example of how small initiatives can tap into rural culture to help create employment. In Zambia we have recently seen growth in village tourism. Beyond culture, the Zambian Soap Company provides a good example of what can be accomplished working with local people. In short, there are plenty of job stimulation opportunities for rural Zambians. The problem that the villages face is not being aware of these business opportunities, lack of capital and of course the challenges of marketing themselves abroad. In all of these three areas Government can do something to help.

In terms of business opportunities, Government can work with rural Zambians to identify 'opportunities' for job creation. The key here is for Government to create an enabling environment where local people can create employment for themselves within the existing cultural settings. The 'enabling approach' is critical because 'opportunities' would would vary from place to place and we cannot simply expect everyone to make crafts!

Lack of capital can be solved by improving access to credit. We have touched on this issue many times on this blog from different angles (e.g.
here, here, here, and here).

Finally, marketing abroad can be improved through creating networks. Kashikulu proposes using Zambian embassies abroad, I prefer using Zambians abroad. There's much that Zambians abroad can do to group together and raise capital and tap into these business opportunities and work with Zambians in rural areas. Government can proactively engage Zambians abroad to create networks. There's much that can be gained from collective investments from Zambians abroad, instead of investing individually. The problem is that coordinating failures inhibit such networking and that is where Government should be stepping in to help.


  1. Cho,

    I'm looking into *saffron*.

    It is the world's most expensive herb (after 'the' herb :)). Saffron is the flowerstalk of a crocus-like flower, and the plant is reproduced by breaking up the bulb and planting it. As a result, it is highly labour intensive and seems to be ideal for relatively dry and hot climates.

    As it should yield $3,78 per working hour, it could easily pay everyone working it (say) $2,- per hour ($320 per month at 8 hours per day), which is more than the present $1,- per day.

    Here is some data I collected on the web:

    Retailprice: 1550 UKPNDs / kilo
    ($3100 per kilo)
    work: 400 hours per kilo
    yield: 25 kilos per hectare

    It would require relatively little land. Virtually all costs would be labour and fertilizer.

    It would be very cheap to transport, as 1 hectare only yields 5 kilos of dried product.

    Saffron is consumed in dishes (so there is a continuous demand, especially in the Mediterranean).

    There is also a current shortage.

  2. MrK,

    Very interesting!

    It appears that the major cost is labour.

    "In Central Otago trials it took 45-55 minutes to pick 1000 flowers and 100-130 minutes to remove stigmas for drying. This equates to around 370-470 hours of work to produce 1 kg of dried saffron".

    But given the turn per kg, it appears worth it.

    The harvesting time is Sept - Dec in Iran. How does that read across to Zambian seasons?

    Also, I need to know more about the "skills". What do harvesters need to know. Are these skills the people in rural areas can be taught easily.

    Very exciting!

  3. (And a correction on my previous post: yield: 5 kilos per hectare; also, 420 hours for 1550 pounds or $3100 would yield $7,38 per hour of labour.)

    The harvesting time is Sept - Dec in Iran. How does that read across to Zambian seasons?

    This is a general article on growing crocuses. They have been grown in Egypt for thousands of years so I don't think Zambia would be a problem.

    Also, I need to know more about the "skills". What do harvesters need to know. Are these skills the people in rural areas can be taught easily.

    They're the stigmata of a hardy crocus that grows out of several bulbs. I think this is one the easier plants to grow and harvest.

    This would even work as an employment project run by the government, where the employees keep all of the profits. Without paying income tax, they could realize $5,- per hour. Because of the limited space required, it could work around cities as well.

    Fortunately, insects and diseases are not common to crocuses.

    Other interesting crop alternatives to maize would be:

    Cassava - which is very drought resistant and is already grown in Zambia. It can be turned into Tapioca, which sells for around $250 per metric tonne.

    Hemp - also drought resistant, which is an excellent fiber crop, and can spur all kinds of industries - rope making, clothes, paper, cardboard, and much more. It is a green alternative to pulp from trees, which take much longer to grow. If there was a law that demanded that all newspapers were made from hemp, it would be both ecologically sound and be a great source of income for a lot of farmers. It takes very little fertilizer and pesticides to grow as well, making it a good alternative to cotton, which uses most of the world's chemicals.


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