The recent signing of a Partnership Agreement between the Department of Industry (GoV), Vanuatu Skills Partnership (DFAT) and Vanuatu Strategic Tourism Action Plan (MFAT) is testimony that the Handicraft Sector is slowly but gradually gaining formal recognition.

With concerted efforts and resources through this partnership and the completion of the major infrastructure projects in the country, this is posed to accelerate both demand and supply in this sector-within the next five years.

A study carried out by a local consultant indicated that Vanuatu’s handicraft sector is worth around Vt1.3 billion.

It further indicated that a reduction of 20% of imported handicraft/souvenir products substituted with an increase in local production would generate Vt100 to 200 million in revenue in the rural economy.

Port Vila alone has over 500 market vendors.

The Acting Director of the Department of Industry (DoI), Noel Kalo says the DoI is rearranging itself to accommodate the work of the Handicraft sector and it is progressing well.

“We have managed to make several accomplishments, and a very important one is through the partnership with the VSTAP, through the Handicraft Business Development Program,” he said.

“A specific strategic plan will be established to guide the work and coordinate other stakeholders involved in this sector. “

The Acting Director of the DoI acknowledged the contribution from VSTAP and the Australian government, through TVET while Mr. Jack Lowane, from the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business noted that the change of process in the Handicraft sector.

The Australian funded Skills for Economic Growth (TVET Program), Director Fremden Shadrack, acknowledged the Australian Government for its support.

“This program started as a pilot program, in two provinces but it is now expanding into four provinces,” he said.

“In addition, it is no longer just a TVET program but part of the Vanuatu Government.

"This is something the ni-Vanuatu must be proud of, because it touches the livelihood of 70-80% of the rural population.

“I also thank the Vanuatu Government for its continuous support.

"We are not only looking at the production of handicraft, but the whole value chain.

“With the partnership, we will be supporting the same people, through coordinated efforts and resources.

“This is the first step. It is heartening to see that the Handicraft Sector is now a focused sector, which the Skills for Economic Growth Program will focus on in its next phase.

“The next phase of the program will officially commence in July. It is all about partnership, with the Vanuatu government, donor partners and our communities.

“We have reached a level where we have to show our commitment, not just wait for people to come and do something for us.”

The handicraft sector was initially under the Department of Tourism, because the tourism sector and handicraft sector are closely linked.

In 2016, it was agreed that the DoI who is in charge of ‘Value Adding’ should take the lead in the development of Handicraft sector, with support from the department of tourism and other supporting institutions.

Awareness on the sector and the plans the government has for the sector, will continue on towards end of the year.

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