Fijian tourists Talisa Bale (left) and Luisa Gavidi (centre) shop for local baskets at Rosalie Vatu’s booth

By Len Garae

Fijians Luisa Gavidi and Lalisa Bale had their mind on locally woven baskets to take home for souvenirs when they went shopping in the Bulvanua Art and Handicraft Cooperative Society at Port Vila Market yesterday.

With or without their knowing, they found what they were looking for at Rosalie Vatu’s booth and she is the President of the newly launched cooperative society.

Luisa Gavidi wanted the same flower pattern on the side of the other basket too and the all-women cooperative boss agreed to add the flower onto the basket.

Director of Cooperatives, Ridley Joseph, launched the bylaw of the new cooperative only last week and even now the booths are looking more attractive with more varieties of Vanuatu made products on the tables.

Rosalie Vatu is excited over what is happening now saying as a mother she knows the struggle that women go through to provide for their families. “When the cooperative purchases newly finished quality products from the women, the smile that we get from them is complete”, she says.

Showing a neat bundle of pocket size woven baskets on the shelf, she adds, “One of our clients, a woman, arrived with twenty of these and received Vt20,000 for her product. She left with tears of joy in her eyes”, she says.

Another client, a man from Ambrym, was making good money every day from his carvings and shell necklaces and he could not keep up with demands especially since he needed special wood for his carvings so he decided to return to Ambrym to work from his village.

He has set up his network with the cooperative to be one of the suppliers of art and handicraft.

“What he is going to do is make necklaces, carve turtles, dolphins and tam-tams in quantity and quality and send them to us and we purchase his products without him having to travel to Port Vila to sell them,” Rosalie Vatu explains.

The aim of the cooperative is to encourage producers to make quality products in large quantities so that cooperative stocks in storage are always available.

The cooperative president is confident that in the long run, the society’s network which promotes income generation to the rural communities will eventually phase out all imported products.

A training workshop for producers to help them make their products in line with the expectations of visitors will take place in Port Vila in a few months’ time.

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