July 21, 2017
As the Philippines focuses on creating opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to further boost trade in ASEAN, a young Japanese designer dispatched under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) Program is providing branding, promotions, and design support to MSMEs in Negros Oriental.
Kaori Nemoto, 31, a graduate of the Department of Design Informatics of Japan's Musashino Art University has teamed up with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Negros Oriental to design and market new souvenir items (earrings, bracelets, and holiday ornaments) using plastic yarn and other recycled materials.
"Negros Oriental already has existing souvenir items. My goal is to help improve their branding and designs to boost the products' marketability and promotions," said Nemoto, who previously worked in a Japanese manufacturing company in Tokyo.
In line with the inclusive development agenda of the Philippine government including providing gainful employment to all, the DTI and Nemoto are currently tapping the skills of some 30 prisoners in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.
The prisoners have created products called PLARN or items made of plastic yarns, that local MSMEs in Negros can further develop and market into souvenirs. "The prisoners in Guihulngan have unappreciated unique skills like weaving and the DTI with help from Nemoto are trying to help them design new items that we can sell at trade fairs," said Mr Jong Fortunato, provincial director of DTI-Negros Oriental.
"Their products (earrings and bracelets) are called ‘prison crafts' and has good potential since they are easy to make, has a target audience (fashionable women and teenagers), and has good profit margin," he added.
There are about 200 MSMEs in Negros, data from the DTI showed and Nemoto aims to support some of them develop new product prototypes they can sell in the future.
"Philippine MSMEs need support in marketing and promoting their products so this activity also aims to give them ideas on transforming available materials into new products," added Nemoto.
"When I came here, their souvenirs had no branding and I thought helping them in that area through sales promotions (packaging, pop-up displays) will help more people appreciate their back stories."
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been dispatching young volunteers like Nemoto in the Philippines since 1966. The JOCVs are usually Japanese professionals trained in a variety of technical disciplines tasked to support JICA's development work in partner countries. At the DTI, JICA has dispatched Japanese volunteers to support product design and development.
In 2013, a JOCV introduced the Philippines' first fabrication laboratory (FabLab), a co-creation platform that supports the design needs of MSMEs.
MSMEs form the backbone of the Philippine economy, accounting for 99.6% of the country's total enterprises and contributing 32% to the country's GDP and 61% of the local workforce.
(Left to right) JOCV Kaori Nemoto assists MSMEs in Negros Oriental in branding and designing their products to boost its marketability; DTI Negros Oriental and JOCV Kaori Nemoto tapped the skills of prisoners from Guihulngan to make products such as earrings, bracelets out of plastic yarns which are sold at trade fairs