Sunday, October 30, 2011

Umbrellas for what?

I read this article in the Vientiane Times today. No ideas what was the reason they published it, since it shows how projects are failing. Bu read first:

"Bamboo umbrellas made in Xieng Khuang province are finding markets
further afield, and are now on sale in popular tourist spots in Luang
Prabang, Vangvieng and even across the border.

The colourful umbrellas, which are individually crafted by villagers
in Phoukoud district, are proving increasingly popular with tourists,
according to Mr Thanongsone Xaisongkham, who is the marketing officer
for the Rural Income through Sustainable Energy project.

“What I know is that traders from these places come to us to buy the
umbrellas to sell. But because most of the people who make them are
farmers, they don't have enough time to make umbrellas in large
quantities and are unable to keep up with demand,” Mr Thanongsone

The colourful umbrellas with bamboo handles are mostly sold in tourist
destinations because they are more artistic than functional.

They can be used to provide shade but are not sturdy enough to be
waterproof in heavy rain, and might also get damaged.

They are used mainly for decoration and are mostly bought by tourists
as a souvenir of Laos.

Mr Thanongsone said umbrella making is an old tradition in Xieng
Khuang province and the pastime dates back to long before the project

“There are currently about 10 people in the province who make
umbrellas and our project encourages them to find new markets for
their products.”

Mr Thanongsone said the venture has generated a good income for the
umbrella makers and some families can earn up to 20 million kip a

Bamboo is plentiful in the northern provinces, especially in Phoukoud

Umbrella production is supported by the Rural Income through
Sustainable Energy project, which began in 2001, and operates in
Phonesaarth Tai village, Paek district, Xieng Khuang province."

So, 10 people producing umbrellas and cannot even meet the demand. Beside of not mentioning how big this demand is, I ask myself why this is even called a project. How much money was wasted for the programm and the programm officer?

To make it clear: There might be a souvenir market for these umbrellas, bu but for now Luang Prabang is actually lacking tourists. And other destinations have the same problem. So if you really want to sell this umbrellas, make sure the supply change is in place and the market as well.

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