08 / 1993
The Associação de Defesa do Patrimonio de Mértola is developing three main finalities:
- the creation of a building able to host its workshops and other activities promoted by ADPM such as tradidional handycraft works, a restaurant, a space organized for exhibition and rooms for secretariat work;
- the recognition of the Mértola area as part of Guadiana valley which a specially protected environmental region;
- the creation of the eco-museum of Guadiana.
In order to achieve these finalities and other concrete objectives of job creation ADPM has been organizing courses corresponding to the range of activities. For example, the young people on the archeological site received a theoretical and practical course of 3.6 months; they also gained experience through working on other sites.
A pottery course was carried out at the end of 1990 in order to train people to produce replicas of pieces inspired by the archeological discoveries. Training for weavers, goldsmiths and potters is exclusively practical. The goldsmiths course aims at training people in order to recover the craft of working gold which has been lost in the region since the time of islamic occupation.
In the case of weaving, the courses last seven months. Since most trainees have never had any contact with weaving before, longer training courses are being developed. Old craftswomen are involved as instructors. Graduates from this scheme can join the Mértola Cooperative Workshop for Weaving.
The Mértola Cooperative for weaving: from its outset ADPM recognised the need to revitalise the traditional weaving industry, which had disappeared at the beginning of the 1970s. Until then women used to make traditional shawls, muslin, towels and saddle bags in their homes. However, sales of their products declined with the fall of the local population and because of competition by large textile industries in the North. The Mértola Cooperative Workshop for Weaving was set up with graduates from the training course along with carders who has always been connected with weaving. In 1986 the cooperative had 26 members all directly connected with weaving.
Breakdown of jobs created by ADPM:In ten years ADPM and the local town council have created around 120 jobs:
- Weaving: 6 full-time jobs, 25 part-time jobs in weaving, 10 part-time jobs in spinning, 3 part-time jobs in carding; about 50 women sell old clothes (by weight)for making patchwork shawls;
- Cultural Association: 10 full-time jobs at the excavations, photographic laboratory, design and metals;
- Town Council: about 15 full-time cultural organisers, whose salaries are provided by the Council in order to develop activities directly connected with the association;
Support local employment initiatives: 3 full-time jobs.
Through many of these activities young people are beginning to realise that they can work for the recovery of the cultural values of the area and create new jobs at the same time.
Internal evaluation: It is very difficult to establish a new economical dynamic in a particularly depressed region such as Alentejo. 15 or 20 years is a very short period for reversing the negative tendencies affecting this region. This must be seen in the context of the national policy. The central government promotes a centralised development policy which further contributes to the gap among different regions. Nonetheless ADPM has been able to create relatively stable job opportunities as far as the Archeological Site and the Town Council are concerned. The aims related to the development of specialised tourism have also been achieved whether it is scientific (archeological)or centered on the natural environmentand the Guadiana river. The Weaving cooperative is facing a hard struggle in order to find a market. A framework for alternative employment has been created not only for local young people, but also for older craft workers who had ceased to practise their craft. The halting of emigration also changed the way people see craftwork, until then a form of subsistence for the poorest ones. The introduction oof wages also contributed to socio-cultural revitalisation.
Adapted by Alessio Surian
EPOLETO, M., SEIES=SOCIEDADE DE ESTUDOS E INTERVENÇAO EM ENGENHARIA SOCIALE, SEIES, 1993 (PORTUGAL)
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