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Tonga Langafonua Handicraft Centre and its Women craft producers to benefit from SPC-CETC – COMSEC partnered pilot program

Artisans, exporters and handicraft operators in Tonga are to benefit from new knowledge and skills, as well as exposure and interaction with experts in this field under the guidance of an expert in Handicrafts, Christine Delany of New Zealand.

With support from the Commonwealth Secretariat and SPC’s Community Education Training Centre, MsDelaney ‘s primary focus is to develop the Tongan Handicraft Centre to be the business arm of the organisation, Langafonua a Fafine Tonga.

As part of its objective to service microenterprise and small business growth in the Community Development Sector of the Pacific Island Countries and Territories, the CETC’s Business Development Advisory Program (BDAP) will focus its next three years on capacity building support for two specific areas to grow its pool of business development facilitators/trainers and enterprises. The two areas are Handicraft and Agribusiness sectors.

Under this project, a scoping of Tonga’s Langafonua Handicraft Centre done in 2009 recommended that the Tonga Handicraft Centre be developed into a business arm which is part of a pilot program of CETC aimed at developing and implementing a specialised industry oriented training program.

At present, there is no formal or informal specialised skills development or training programs anywhere in the Pacific for the handicraft sector.

Ms Delaney will work with selected suppliers and staff of the Handicraft Centre on product identification, design and development, training Langafonua staff to build their business management capacity including the awareness of market trends, training of trainers for Master crafts men and women, assisting Langafonua to develop an internal data-base and global information networks for product design, development, marketing and distribution of handicrafts and develop Langafonua’s capability to advise handicraft producers on intellectual property rights.

The objectives are to strengthen Langafonua’s business management capacity to operate the Handicraft Centre, update and increase awareness of Langafonua’s handicraft producers in areas of manufacturing technology, design, product development including quality control and standards, packaging, marketing, intellectual property rights and to strengthen the capacity of business development facilitators providing support for the handicraft sector.

Ms Delaney described her first day of consultancy as good with an attendance of over 20 women and one man. Discussions centred on research into marketing craft to tourists and elements needed for successful craft business. They also identified several areas in the needs analysis which included restructuring the sales and business model, pricing guidelines, product presentation and promotion, quality control of product, shop display, advocacy including labels of authenticity and pamphlets.

For producers, Ms Delaney discussed guidance on products, strengthening, developing new contemporary products (using local materials, extant skills and referencing traditional imagery).

The envisaged outcomes are the institutionalisation of a customised handicraft training program at the CETC and a change in the mindset of Tongan crafters and operators who are resistant to change due to lack of exposure to new ideas, designs and processes, increased demand for Tongan crafted/art products and increased income and knowledge and experience of CETC national level business development trainers/facilitators to provide better support to handicraft producers.