Supporting Traditional Handicrafts in the Old City

The Pilot project for the poverty alleviation in the city of Saida hasfocused on the Old City of Saida and especially on preserving the traditional handicrafts and improving the livelihoods of the craftsmen andtheir families.

The Old City of Saida is a living Urban Heritage Site that is considered to be the cultural heart of greater Saida with major components of special significance such as the souqs, the residential neighbourhoods, the monuments and the historic housing stock. The Old City has suffered deterioration due to high congestion, out-dated infrastructure, aging housing stock, and the migration of inhabitants who were replaced by the poorer strata of the population or by poor migrants from rural areas.

In the recent years, the Old City has witnessed a large-scale process of renovation and restoration with the attempt to revitalise the area and attract tourists. However, a lot of effort still needs to be done in terms of raising the security and safety in the area, and creating a socio-economic dynamic of change driven by architectural renovation and a social (re)-construction of the city space. Thus, improving the living conditions of the inhabitants, developing and promoting the traditional crafts in the Old City, and training and providing alternatives for inhabitants to restore their houses will strengthen the people's sense of ownership of the city's image, as they will benefit from it and be major contributors to its maintenance and sustainable cultural tourism.

The USUDS Strategic Diagnosis Report, "Employment in Traditional Crafts and Trades," in Saida categorises that households relying on income from traditional crafts are one of the most vulnerable social groups in Saida. For this reason, the Pilot Project for the Poverty Alleviation of Saida focused on  preserving the traditional handicrafts and improving the socio-economic conditions for the craftsmen and their families, with the objective to:

1.       Increase the quality and quantity of production

2.       Build trust between the traditional craftsmen and development stakeholders in the city

In order to achieve these goals, the city of Saida has organised interventions in order to improve the conditions of the craftsmen shops and support the adequate promotion of the crafts products, by creating a collective brand based on the identification of the stories behind these projects. The pilot project included the following activities: mapping of the craftsmen and assessment of their needs, training and capacity building activities in collaboration with development NGOs active in the Old City, identification of the stories behind these projects, creation of a common trademark and branding activities for these products based on a common packaging, and organisation of public exhibitions of the traditional crafts of Saida's Old City.

As a result, field visits were made to the 17 craft shops that exist in the Carpenter souqs and inquiries were made in order to understand their socio-economic problems and barriers that led to the regression of their profession and to identify proposals regarding the future development of their profession. Based on this identification of needs it was decided to train each craftsman in financial management, packaging techniques, as well as packaging sustainability and benefits in order to help them acquire essential skills to develop and preserve the crafts and prepare them for future collaborations with partners and associations that might be promoting or buying their crafts. Also, a common brand identity and packaging material were proposed as a means to strengthen the products' reputation and marketability, enhance and assure quality, and establish new customer segments. Furthermore, a group of youth was trained in carpentry by Saida's craftsmen as a means to ensure the preservation and sustainability of their profession. Lastly, exhibitions were made in the Khan El Franj of Saida, with live displays of wood crafts and traditional handicrafts related to Saida's heritage.  Additionally, a specific showroom was created for the promotion of the common brand of carpentry from Saida.

This pilot project forms part of a greater plan of intervention for increasing the competitiveness of Saida's traditional trade and crafts, identified as a priority of the strategic action plan elaborated under the USUDS project.