The Jakarta Post
The German government, through the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) institute, has said it would provide assistance to empower earthenware and pearl jewelry artisans in West Lombok and Mataram in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).
Besides building capacity for the craftspeople, the Regional Economic Development (RED) program, which began in 2011, will also help them promote their products to a wider market.
'We will provide advice to earthenware craftsmen in Banyumulek village, West Lombok, and gold, silver and pearl artisans in Sekarbela, Mataram city,' NTB RED GIZ regional coordinator Prayitno Basuki said recently.
Apart from providing support in product design innovation, added Prayitno, the program would also help the artisans with marketing to help them reach a wider market, especially the international one.
In Banyumulek village, more than 80 percent of residents rely on pottery making for all or some of their livelihood since the 1990s. Almost every household makes earthenware, such as jars and large bowls.
The village is home to more than 200 pottery curio shops selling various types of distinctive Lombok earthenware, ranging from urns, bowls, lamp stands and jugs to ashtrays and piggy banks.
'We have brought in potters and tutors from Australia and Bali to enrich the designs. For marketing, RED has provided a market and directly connected the craftspeople to overseas buyers. RED has also done the same for the pearl craft center in Sekarbela village, Mataram city,' said Prayitno.
He also said that the RED program, which would end this year, was expected to build capacity for potters and pearl artisans in Lombok.
Meanwhile, Banyumulek Green Tourism Village Cooperative head Sri Amin, 35, said the mentor program carried out by GIZ, through the RED program in Banyumulek, was very beneficial, especially for financial management capacity and product marketing.
Based on data from the Banyumulek village administration, 3,835 families live in the village and 1,800 of them make pottery in the cottage industry involving a total 6,000 residents, including children.
'Previously, potters in the village sold their products to middlemen at cheap prices, but they can now sell their products to the cooperative. We have also provided loans for those who need them,' said Sri.
Sri added that the cooperative had also created the Green Tourism Village concept, which allowed visitors to observe the pottery-making process in the homes of villagers, visit the park in the village and buy pottery.
Potter Udin, 45, said the RED empowerment program from GIZ greatly benefitted craftsmen.
'We had only been serving the local market, or selling our wares to visitors. We sold most of our products to the middlemen from outside the area, such as from Bali. We now earn more profits as we can sell our goods at a higher price, thanks to direct access to overseas buyers through the cooperative,' said Udin.
The middlemen would usually buy a small-sized pot for Rp 5,000 (43 US cents) and a large piece for Rp 15,000. In the curio shops visited by tourists, the same goods sell for Rp 35,000 and Rp 75,000
Though the program is improving livelihoods in the village, the future of Banyumulek remains uncertain. As of 2013, 80 percent of the villagers were categorized as living below the poverty line, according to the government.