$1.7 Million Initiative Unleashes Creativity and Improves Livelihood of Rural Artisan Communities in India

April 1, 2010

New Delhi, April 1, 2010 - The World Bank and the Asian Heritage Foundation teamed up to support vulnerable and landless communities whose lives depend on the traditional cultural industry in India. Through a US$1.7 million Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) grant managed by the World Bank, the Asian Heritage Foundation initiated “JIYO” –a program that provides training, market access, and sustainable incomes to rural artisans. Two years since the program’s inception, it has significantly improved the livelihood of over 4,000 artisan community members across India. The JIYO Exhibition and Bazaar, a three-day event being held at the World Bank New Delhi Office until April 3, is showcasing and marketing new contemporary products that have been developed by the program.

JIYO is piloting an innovative effort that aims at strengthening every link in the craft value chain. This includes supporting the artisans to develop their own craft cluster institution, providing contemporary product and design development training, developing innovative artisan financial tools, addressing issues of technology obsolesce and finally, market development. These clusters –fully owned and managed by communities— are strengthening the local artisan communities’ capacity to manage their own economic activity competitively. The program is currently supporting 13 of these clusters in 2 states, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

“Nature is much more generous than human beings. When it distributes talent and creativity, nature looks not to caste, social oppression or economic status,” said Roberto Zagha, the World Bank Country Director in India. “Talent and creativity are distributed in ways that ignore man-made economic and social inequalities. This program is capitalizing on that very fact to empower poor rural artisan communities in India. We are honored to be associated with this program”

The program has been specifically designed to complement the efforts of the on-going rural livelihood projects in India, especially in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, and work with them to enhance the livelihood opportunities and market share of rural artisans. With the objective to enhance opportunities and share of rural artisans in the over US$ 1 billion market for cultural industries and related sectors, the project has developed a unique partnership between traditional artisans and designers in transforming the local products into global products and, thereby enabling the artisans to access global markets on a sustainable basis.

“There are more than six million rural artisans in India. JIYO program builds on their creative capital and aims to create a brand which will be owned by them. Cultural industries can be a big catalyst for poverty reduction and this program aims to help rural artisans build value chains for their products and increase their incomes,” said Parmesh Shah, Lead Rural Development Specialist and Task Leader of the JIYO Program in the World Bank.

“Cultural Industries need to be recognized in the planning process and rural artisans should be given due recognition. JIYO enables empowerment of rural artisans through creating new livelihoods in cultural industries amongst the skilled communities of India. It also signifies the arrival of a Swadeshi (Indigenous) brand for the 21st Century,” said Rajeev Sethi, Executive Director of Asian Heritage Foundation, which conceived and implemented the program.

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