Thursday Oct 23
Factoid: Morocco is a world leader in producing crafts which explains the government’s focus on the large handicraft market which accounts for 20% of the country’s labor force and 10% of the country’s GDP. In 2002, artisan production generated $6.2 billion in sales for two million artisans, benefiting one-third of the population.
I thought I’d share a little bit about the projects that we’re working on here in Ain Leuh with the women of the weaving Cooperative. Here’s the situation-they’ve been in operation for 20 years, and up until 2 years ago, a government appointed person was managing the business-the financials and the marketing (such as it was). She went to all expos, all training, and passed none of it on to the women of the cooperative. So in the last 2 years the women have taken on full responsibility for their business. This is a business that has lost money for at least the last 6 years, despite the fact that the women are weaving some of, if not the best carpets in Morocco.
My project is to put together worksheets and a reference document on budgeting, and I’ll do a workshop on Saturday-all in Darija. They have never put together a budget nor have they been trained on doing one. However, if they could save money to buy 2-3 heaters for their workshop, they could weave thru the entire winter-an additional 1-2 months worth of weaving and increase their production at least 10-15%. (It gets too cold to weave all winter long-there’s no insulation or heating in the workroom-just cement block walls-which is true for all buildings and homes here). The sales from this increase in production is more than they need to pay for the heaters and electricity in the 1st year. OK, so now I need to get this across to these wonderful women who have no business, finance, or planning experience. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to keep something simple.
The other volunteers are working on projects including: two are getting the brochures that a former PCV produced into the 2 Auberges in Ain Leuh and a new sign for the front of the building to draw more people into the Coop when they’re in Ain Leuh; one is training 2 women on how to use their new digital camera to take photos and download them to their new website (more on that later); one will train them on how to decide what type of product they should be weaving based on profitability (right now they either weave to order or if there’s no order, the woman chooses what she makes); and one is putting together a resource for them to apply for grants.
Ok, so they are getting a new website-I’ll include a ling to the site when it’s “live”. A University in Ifrane had students from the US here working on developing the website for the Coop. It’s almost ready. The women have a computer, but it has no Word or Excel software, no internet, no one knows how to use it and it’s in French, and none of them speak or read French. So, their computer’s not a viable option. The same University gave the women a new digital camera, but no training on how to use it, how and where to download the photos, how to post them to their site, etc. There is also the open question as to how and who will manage the website. Hmmm.
Building sustainability is not as easy as it appears. It’s great to provide resources to those who need them, but if they can’t build on them or use them once the help is gone, the resources are limited.
The next week is a big one for us. We finish our CBT II projects and reports, we throw a party for the people in Ain Leuh who have helped us, ie; women of the Cooperative and our host families, we pack up and go back to Azrou. We’re in Azrou for 2 days and we’ll find out our final sites-the location, what type of town and artisans we’ll be working with for the next 2 years. Then we leave for site visits to our new locations to meet the host families we’ll live with for the next 2 months. Wahoo! Inshallah!
Parting shot: I'm working at the cyber (cybercafe to you) across from my house-the place I usually use because the guys who run it know me by now and let me into their office space to download files and print them out. The guy here just told me (in Darija) that my l-arbiya mezyan (my Arabic is good). OK, so it's not true, but it still made my day!