Higher-quality artisanal textile production by handloom weavers is poised for boom and should create empolyment following the completion of a two-month training of eight Zambian weavers in India.
The weavers did their training in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu under a larger EU-financed programme for African cotton promotion and value addition.
The programme, which was facilitated by the International Trade Centre (ITC), was also backed by the Indian government’s Ministry of Textiles as well as the Indian Institute of Handloom Technology (IIHT).
The cotton handloom sector in Zambia has the potential to contribute substantially to employment.
According to a press release,this programme sought to introduce low-cost traditional techniques to stimulate artisanal textile production and competitiveness, and to build linkages to regional and international markets.
The graduation ceremony last week marked a new beginning for the weavers, who will spearhead ITC’s pilot handloom cluster development project in Zambia.
They will become the lead trainers of project beneficiaries in two cluster locations in Lusaka and Mumbwa.
The project has supported the weavers to build value addition skills and move up the competitiveness ladder along the cotton value chain.
The weavers, who arrived at the Indian Institute of Handloom Technology (IIHT) in Salem in December 2014 were trained in textile design, block printing, use of sophisticated handlooms and quality management.
IIHT Director P. Thennarasu said “the weavers were very committed to the training, and their achievements surpassed our expectations”.
Upon their return to Zambia, the master weavers will be linked up with stakeholders in Lusaka and cotton farming communities in the district of Mumbwa who are eagerly waiting to receive training.
One of the Zambians, Elizabeth Manyofwe, said she had been encouraged by the study visits during which she saw men and women weaving within their homes.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony she said: “This has given me a new vision to go back to Zambia and teach especially the community”, she said.
“The study was excellent and what I have learned has opened my mind more about what could be done in Zambia’, added Charity Mulenga, one of her colleagues.
The graduation ceremony was attended by Manoj Jain, Office of the Development Commissioner for Handloom, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, and Aselly Mwanza, head, gender, business & extension, Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ).
“I am overwhelmed with joy to witness another successful milestone in the handloom development project”, Ms. Mwanza said after the ceemony.
While in India the Zambians visited several handloom cluster sites in Tamil Nadu.