If government programs to support artisans exist, what makes them so hard-to-reach?

Globally, artisans have much to offer. They are experts in their dedicated craft as well as keepers of knowledge and traditions oftentimes passed on from generation to generation. In a place like Oaxaca (México), craft traditions run strong and cultural diversity is reflected in each handcrafted good. While artisans work hard to maintain their traditions in various ways one being through the crafts produced, they often face challenges in sustaining reliable income.

In México specifically, several national-level government programs exist such as those funded by the National Fund for the Development of Artisans (FONART) and the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples exist (INPI). Additionally, in the state of Oaxaca, the Oaxacan Institute of Artisanal Crafts (IOA) works to address financial challenges that artisans may face and aims to support them directly to meet their goals. 

This type of support covers the entire value chain from manufacturing to exportation, which includes :

  • copyright and registration
  • skills training in business operations
  • technology use, and
  • participation in global forums to promote crafts. 

Despite government support in addressing the challenges that prevent artisans from making sustainable profits from their crafts, access is still low. According to a 2020 report by FONART, only 20% of artisans were enrolled in a government program, were  of elderly age (60+) and lived in some of the poorest, most marginalized areas of Mexico. Part of the reason is there is little awareness that the programs exists.

Even if there is some awareness, restrictions and bureaucracies during the application process prevent artisans from benefiting from this type of aid.