Reviving traditional trades to create opportunities

Oman has a unique tradition in handicrafts and the Sultanate must be aggressive to promote rural industries heritage to create business opportunities for people living outside Muscat. Oman’s economy survived on cottage industry before 1970.
Master craftsmen then worked in the front yard of their houses in silversmith, carpentry, bricks manufacturing carpet weaving, pottery, quilt making, clothing, production of medicinal products, dates packaging and a host of other traditional professions.
The rural entrepreneurs created employment in their own areas and offered training to youngsters who in turn, kept the business going. This does not create mass employment but it keeps people in their own towns stopping them from moving to the capital city of Muscat to look for jobs.
It is unfortunate that Oman is now importing frankincense when it is abundantly growing it in Dhofar.
In the 1960s, dates, dry fish and meat were part of a thriving cottage industry and exported as far as East Africa. So were medicinal herbs packaged in special containers sold in the neighbouring countries.
In carpentry, the local cottage industry produced masterpieces we see in the famous forts of Bahla, Jabreen, Nizwa, Rustaq and Suhar.
The wooden doors, windows, frames, shelves and cornices in these forts were intricately carved by Omani craftsmen.The doors we buy now for our houses are no match to the craftsmanship of the past and it is a pity these skills are allowed to disappear in the annals of time.
The local cuisines such as halwa, shuwa, harees, machboos, muqalab and skhana are in the rapid decline and so is the boat building industry that once made Oman famous.
Due to the negligence of the national scale, very few artisans of these cottage trades survive today. Their children did not bother to learn from their parents because the government did not encourage such businesses letting the cottage industry die away. But a vigorous national campaign can bring that back.
However, special vocational training for the cottage industry need to be established. A national campaign to raise awareness on the benefits of these trades must be launched to tell young people why it is important, at a time when the country can no longer guarantee employment, to get themselves involved.
It is also crucial to establish appropriate financial schemes in the mould of SME to make the revival of this business successful.
A suitable platform must also be in place to educate cottage industry owners to identify which trade is most viable and how they would market it.
But to launch it effectively, lessons must be learned on the stuttering efforts of the SME. In the absence of real commitment, SME owners are struggling to make it a success. The cottage industry has to be different.
Long, winding bureaucracy needs to be dramatically cut down. People who work from the home environment do not need a lot of financial back up, just the right skills and a good tool to contact customers.
Oman has a history of producing high quality of distinctive product using traditional methods. With careful administration, the dying cottage industry will come back to alleviate the burden of the government to constantly create employment.
Although Oman has championed this industry in the past, it needs to readapt to get it right once again.
For that happen, the Sultanate must learn from the experience of other countries. In the United Kingdom, the number of cottage industry trades has doubled in the last ten years. What really helps Britons to make it a success is the use of technology to market their product.
Omanis are not really backward when it comes to the social media.
The electronic network is more powerful than the words of mouth crasftsmen used in the past. The biggest advantage of the social media is that it is almost free and the audiences are readily available at the click of a button.