[EXP] Support to the Craft Masters of the Estonian Rural Areas
Rural topic(s): (Agri)-tourism and rural heritage
Type: Innovative experience
Date of writing: June 9, 2010
Author(s) of this page: Jaanika Kaljuvee
Organization(s): LVF (Lake Võrtsjärv Foundation)
Lake Võrtsjärv Foundation, whose main goal is regional development around the lake Võrtsjärv rural areas, has been supporting local traditions and the creation of entrepreneurial networks in the region. One of the tasks of the foundation is to encourage local people for nature-friendly economic activities which would support the growth of eco-tourism and the development of traditional branch of production in the region. An on-line shop www.estcraft.com was founded in 2008 by A.N.K.Grupp Ltd, a company run by local inhabitants from Lake Võrtsjärv region
The Lake Võrtsjärv is the biggest inner-Estonian lake. Mainly used by fishermen from the seven villages bordering the lake, it also had some recently evolving soft tourism and recreational activities. It is also a Natura 2000 site. On May 3, 2000, the seven local governments established an organization for planning the joint development of the Lake Võrtsjärv region, the Lake Võrtsjärv Foundation.
Traditional craft skills are an essential part of Estonian mental cultural heritage. These unique resources and values and abundant historical and cultural heritage make Estonian people feel that Estonian handicrafts, in their authentic and proper form, have not yet been fully valued and are not accessible in Europe.
Initiators of the project
Lake Võrtsjärv Foundation, whose main goal is regional development around the lake Võrtsjärv rural areas, is the main initiator to support local traditions and the creation of entrepreneurial networks in the region. One of the tasks of the foundation is to encourage local people for nature-friendly economic activities which would support the growth of eco-tourism and the development of traditional branch of production in the region. From this initiative and with support from EU Leader Programme (development of small-scale entrepreneurship), the on-line shop www.estcraft.com was founded in 2008 by A.N.K.Grupp Ltd, a company run by local inhabitants from Lake Võrtsjärv region
Project activities with respect to sustainable development
Local craftsmen are expected to offer their quality products which are based on local materials and traditional handicraft skills. Estcraft environment supports craftsmen with the means of IT-knowledge, photography, marketing and shipping.
- Supporting local craftsmen: In the beginning the craftsmen were all from lake region, but now it developed more and craftsmen are invited to join from all over Estonian rural regions. The only criteria is that the products must be handmade by Estonian craftsmen. Any other additional criteria are welcome: like traditional patterns and work methods, local materials
- Training: the company work closely with Lake Võrtsjärv Foundation who organises training programme in Lake region. For example, in summer 2010 , a training course will deal with how to use local resource in lake region - reed in construction and handicraft.
- link with tourism: all handicraft products are in sale in visitor centres around the lake Võrtsjäv. A handicraft route is being prepared and will offer tours to near situated handicraft farms to have a look and visit smith‘s farm or carpenter‘s farm or sheep farm (wool products etc). Estcraft is also promoting Rural Holiday, a countryside place where you can spend your holidays in renovated traditional farm buildings where visitors organise themselves on their own (making food, heating sauna with wood and washing in pond, spending evenings near fireplace outside).
Just an example of local product – Unique Art Of Fish Skin. The skins of the various fish species living in our waters have been used in making fish skin pictures. The majority of fish have been caught from the largest inland water body of Estonia – Lake Võrtsjärv.
Main results, lessons learned.
The word is spread and more and more craftsmen offer their products which makes the assortment more varied, but yet this is not the main income for locals, just a complementary one. However the initiative has strengthened links between craftsmen, giving them ideas on how creating and designing more interesting products together.
Future challenges and perspectives.
The main object of the whole process is to help maintaining population in the region. But to reach the goal, the marketing and sales have to grow. The expectation is also that Estonian handicraft is well-known in European important task for the future is to encourage also other entrepreneurs in pursuing sustainable business activities, integrating nature conservation and entrepreneurship, and also in informing the locals and customers. Estcraft would like to cooperate, linking the www.estcraft.com webpage with other relevant webpages, disseminating information for potential customers etc…
Jaanika Kaljuvee own experience as Estcraft Public Affair and initiator
Estonian Handicraft Online Shop / Lake Võrtsjärv Foundation
Scale of intervention : Regional
Keywords: cultural heritage, crafts, lake, ecotourism, innovation, rural entrepreneurship, higher added-value products, locally-based economy, conservation and management of natural resources, traditional knowledge