This project sought to build a network that would contribute to alternative forms of tourism, as part of the safari experience, through craft demonstrations and the production of craft artifacts that express a sense of place, as well as the art and culture of the region.
There has been a growth in safari tourism in Southern Africa to augment the exploitation of other natural resources such as minerals and forestry. For example, the National Department of Tourism in South Africa estimated that the contribution of tourism to their national economy would significantly increase by 2020.
Tourism supports one in every 12 jobs in South Africa. (Brand South Africa 2017). It has been recognised that diversification is required in the tourism industry. The rich and varied culture of the Southern African region has been identified as a social resource that is both sustainable and brings a different experience to the tourists visiting the Region.
Yet the integration of individuals with disabilities into their communities through arts, crafts, and design has been lacking. While researchers, commentators, and Government offices from Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa had all expressed similar aspirations for the development of cultural and heritage tourism, many countries in Southern Africa were still supported by overseas economic aid to offset the need in the poorest communities.
Within these poorest of communities, those living with a physical or cognitive impairment were often the most vulnerable.
The Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) in partnership with Loughborough University, implemented the CraftsAbilities project This project sought to build a network that would contribute to alternative forms of tourism, as part of the safari experience, through craft demonstrations and the production of craft artifacts that express a sense of place, as well as the art and culture of the region.
This was done through the provision of knowledge, skills and resources that enabled people with disabilities to produce artefacts and generate income for their families and the wider community; resulting in enhanced status. The project achieved the following:
The network laid the foundations of a bridge between communities and people with disabilities within those communities; and enabled dialogue and the exchange of knowledge through culture and heritage expressed as artefacts.
My role in implementing the CraftsAbilities project as the Project Manager involved overseeing various aspects of the project, from planning and stakeholder engagement to budget management.
It also involved team leadership and impact assessment, with the ultimate goal of achieving the project’s objectives and creating lasting positive change in the communities involved.