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Artisans are the backbone of India’s non-farm rural economy, engaged in craft production to earn a livelihood. However, propelled by loss of markets, declining skills and difficulty catering to new markets, the number of Indian artisans has been rapidly decreasing. Crafting a Livelihood calls for re-investment in India’s artisans to safeguard history, culture and an important source of livelihood.
While historically crafts received royal and aristocratic patronage, they have slowly lost relevance as India industrialized. Over the past 30 years, the number of Indian artisans has decreased by 30% and the vast majority of artisans operate in informal work settings. Investing in the crafts sector offers tremendous opportunity to improve the economic, environmental and social conditions of rural communities, by tapping into the global market, the environmental benefit of low polluting industries, and the economic and social empowerment of many rural households.
As outlined by Crafting a Livelihood, harnessing the potential of this sector requires different types of investments to preserve traditional crafts, strengthen the sector, and improve the incomes of artisans. One recommendation is to strengthen individual artisans engaged in production by generating awareness among artisans about the value of their skill, and train artisans continuously to upgrade their skills and product offerings. Another key recommendation is to increase demand for crafts and strengthening market linkages. There is also need to provide business support and leverage technology for information and process innovations to increase efficiencies in craft production and enable artisans to produce more.