Handicrafts Project - Local Hands
This project was launched in 2006 to enable small-scale artisans to tap into the tourist and hotel market. To achieve the required quality, FED has provided funding for the technical training of these craftworkers as well as production facilities. The Foundation also markets its products to hotels and tourist shops. While in the early stages of the project in 2006, Beachcomber hotels accounted for almost all of their turnover, the ratio was brought down to only 50% in 2015. The number of clients outside Beachcomber reflects the quality of Local Hands products and their appeal to tourists.
Since 2013, the 55 artisans working regularly with FED founded the Local Hands association. Thirty-five of them use the workshops provided by the project at Phoenix (textiles), La Gaulette (pottery, textiles) and Bambous (coco fibre, paper and other recycled materials). The 20 other craftworkers are self-employed small entrepreneurs who sell part of their products through Beautiful LocalHands.
Most of these craftworkers also have their own clientele that Local Hands has helped them expand. This project has indeed enabled them to produce work of a higher quality, which attracts more clients and allows them to raise their prices.
Local Hands has a flexible structure which enables the craftworkers to work from home or in the workshops and set their own work schedules. It also allows people who are not able to cope with the demands of a conventional business enterprise, such as elderly women and the disabled, to earn an income, thus helping improve their self-esteem. The project additionally allows them to escape from their isolation and meet with other craftworkers: this changes their self-perception and gives them new perspectives on their lives while giving them new resources to address the difficulties they are facing.
These 55 craftworkers are mainly women who use their earnings to improve the quality of life for their families or give their children a better education, thereby improving the latter’s chances of success in the labour market and breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Some craftworkers who receive large orders also seek help from their relatives and entourage, which means that in practice there are more people than the 55 craftworkers registered with FED who earn money from the project.
By allowing these craftworkers to derive an income from traditional Mauritian handicraft techniques using vacoas (screwpine) and coco fibre, Local Hands promotes these techniques and helps maintain this cultural heritage. The project also helps keep these plants growing, and therefore preserve the environment and biodiversity.