A sales centre for handicraft producers

Wanduruppa Road, Ambalantota

Sri Lanka is renowned for its exquisite traditional crafts and arts. These products are a result of age - old techniques passed on from generation to generation with high degree of distinct identity and indigenous raw materials processed in environmentally friendly fashion.

Although a cottage based micro enterprise, handicraft industry has immense potential to capture export and local niche markets. Handicraft industry also provides indirect and direct employment to many, among which majorities are women.
Yet, handicraft industry in Sri Lanka is faced with a number of setbacks. Insufficient capital cost to invest in raw material, scarcity of raw material, problems in production, lack of guidance in product design, absence of direct marketing outlets and inability to access sales outlets in urban centers are major issues faced by handicraft producers in Sri Lanka.
In this context can the handicraft industry be revived as a foreign currency spinning venture?

Women in Wanduruppa a small village, in Ambalantota DS Division of Hambantota district were involved in handicraft production. Using Palmyrah leaves they produced bags, hats, flower vases and toys. Although, raw material could be found in the village at times they had to travel to Weerawila or pay large amounts of money to get raw material from far off places such as even Batticaloe. But for the handicraft producers in Wanduruppa many issues such as inability to link up with markets, inability to access new technologies, inadequate capacity to access urban and export markets remained unaddressed.

Things took a different turn when the National Craft Council came into the village and facilitated establishing the "Visithuru Kalashilpa Sanvardana Samitiya" the handicraft producer's society. Although the members at the inception stage were 8 to ten this society now has a membership of 30. The National Craft Council has provided an opportunity for the group of handicraft producers to undergo training on using Pandanus and Banana leaves. Handicraft producers also got an opportunity to show case and market their products at the National Crafts Council exhibitions and Sales out lets. Handicraft producers from Wandurppa now do not have to go on search of good raw material as the society has started purchasing standard raw material on whole sale quantities and distributes among the society members.

In 2006, Practical Action and Sarvodaya came in to the village to start work on a project to implement a Livelihood Development Project to improve living conditions of the people in Wanduruppa and Ambalantota South area. One of the successful programmes implemented by this project was a technical training on Producing Handicraft Items using Water Hyacinth. It was an advantage that the raw material (Water Hyacinth) could be found in the village. An 8 day training programme was carried out for 30- participants with the help of an experienced trainer from the National Crafts Council. Subsequently, at one of the handicraft exhibitions held in Galle district a product developed using water hyacinth by one of the participants of this training programme won the second place. The improved production quality of the handicrafts of the "Visithuru Kalashilpa Sanvardana Samitiya" has been able to attract marketing opportunities from the Sri Lanka National Design Centre and the Tourist Board.

On the 25th of April 2008 "Visithuru Kalashilpa Sanvardana Samitiya" is moving into their handicraft sales centre at Wanduruppa Road in Ambalantota. This will hopefully help the handicraft producer group to link up with more market opportunities. If you are visiting Hambantota area do not forget to drop in at the handicraft sales centre in Ambalantota and buy gift items for your friends and loved ones and help secure a livelihood of skilled artisans in Sri Lanka.

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