13 June 2011
“Entrepreneurs can use local fibre resources and fulfil local needs without imposing impossible demands on local community”
The Commonwealth Secretariat is supporting a project training local entrepreneurs to use plant-based natural fibres for products from key regions in Mozambique and Zambia.
The project, which sees local organisations collaborating with organisations from the UK and India for technical support and training, is exploring ways in which communities of natural fibre producers in the two African countries can develop their products through enhanced product design, fibre production and processing.
The designer and supervisor of the project, Watipaso Mkandawire, Adviser with the Special Advisory Services Division of the Secretariat, said: “This project is about supporting those at the bottom of the pyramid whilst taking into account their local needs. The challenge of supporting micro, small and medium enterprises is that often programmes merely sustain subsistence and rarely do you find micro-enterprises growing to become small- and then medium-sized enterprises. The project is about moving entrepreneurs up the ladder - from subsistence to sustainable businesses.”
The project, which is funded by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, was initiated in July 2010 and is expected to finish by December 2011.
Natural fibre samples were collected, tested and classified as part of the initial stage of the project, and the findings will be incorporated into a natural fibre database for each country.
The fibres collected include banana, palm, sisal, coconut and a number of fibrous grasses. Numerous natural fibre products have also been collected and tested for further development.
The testing and classification activities were conducted by the Textile Engineering and Materials research group at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Co-ordinated by Dr Matthew Horne, the group examined the potential uses of these fibres in industrial production.
The Industree Crafts Association of Bengaluru (Bangalore), India, will look into product development and design within each country, in collaboration with country partners: Centro de Estudos e Desenvolvimento de Artesanato for Mozambique; and, in Zambia, Mumwa Crafts Association, which buys crafts from its members and sells them locally, regionally and internationally, and the Zambia Development Agency.
Members of the local community producing the natural fibre products will be trained on designing new products from those fibres and expanding their use of technology to make existing products more valuable.
“With natural fibres, entrepreneurs can use local resources and fulfil local needs on a scale and degree of sophistication that will not impose an impossible demand on the local community. At the same time, the production can be environmentally sound and sustainable. We would like entrepreneurs to start moving away from ordinary craft to other fibre-based products, for example, fit-for-purpose building materials or materials for other industrial applications,” Mr Mkandawire said.
The project will culminate with exhibitions in both Mozambique and Zambia later in the year where the natural fibres and their properties and potential for product development will be showcased. Sample materials, products and information will also be showcased along with an overview of the project’s impact.
very useful and could be replicated elsewhere