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Traditional crafts thrive in rural Vietnam (July 21, 2003)

Making products from bamboo for export in northern province of Bac Ninh
Vietnam’s traditional craft villages originate from the wet rice civilization of eastern Asia. The development of craft villages not only generates jobs in rural areas, but also serves to introduce Vietnamese cultural identity to other countries. Fine art articles are valuable export items, which contribute a great part to Vietnam’s socio-economic development strategy.

Vietnam has around 1,000 craft villages, which are concentrated mainly in the Red river delta. Many traditional craft villages have been maintained and developed for centuries. They include the ceramic arts of Bat Trang village, silver smithing in Dong Xam, woodcarving and in laid mother of pearl in Dong Ky and silk weaving in Van Phuc. Due to the abundance of local materials and labor force, products made in these villages are cheap and therefore easily sold, helping locals increase their income.

Lying on the outskirts of Hanoi, Bac Ninh province has a wide variety of craft villages. Director of Bac Ninh’s Department of Industry, Vuong Van Diem said, "Bac Ninh ranks second in the country after Ha Tay province in the number of craft villages. Fifty-eight craft villages give great potential to the province’s socio-economic development. The industry has had many ups and downs, but a number of craft villages in Bac Ninh have secured firm footholds in the market.

Many craft villages have developed rapidly and to a large scale by using advanced technology. They now produce a large volume of goods for local consumption and for export. In 2000, revenue from the Bac Ninh public sector jumped from US$60 million in 2000 to US$140 million last year. Many craft villages in Bac Ninh have also experienced rapid growth, particularly the Dong Ky wood craft commune in Dong Quang village. Almost all households in the commune are engaged in furniture production. Dong Ky furniture is now exported to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany and France.

However, further development of these craft villages is facing some hurdles, such as workshops which are too small and do not meet the environmental standards. To overcome these problems, the Government has formulated a development strategy for craft villages, focusing on a master plan to enhance their traditional cultural value.

Bac Ninh has founded several industrial parks for traditional crafts. Chairman of the People’s Committee of Bac Ninh, Nguyen The Thao told VOVNews, "Bac Ninh has a policy to invest and develop traditional craft villages. Each industrial complex will cover from 15 to 20 hectares and their investment formulas will be flexible. Households in craft villages can pool their money to develop infrastructure or work through infrastructure investors who then lease facilities to enterprises."

A common trend in the development of traditional craft villages is to move production establishments to more appropriate venues, and improve the infrastructure in order to establish centers of traditional craft activity.

Reprinted from VOV News


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