History was made on Wednesday June 12 when the Vanuatu Financial Services Commission (VFSC) handed over the registration certificate for Vanuatu’s first ever Community Company — the MALAMPA Handicraft Centre Ltd.

The MALAMPA Handicraft Centre (MHC) was established to link rural handicraft producers in MALAMPA Province with market opportunities, including opportunities outside of their province.

The Centre currently works with three hundred producers, mainly women across Malekula, Ambrym and Paama, providing much needed income to rural communities.

Speaking on behalf of the founders of the Centre, Mrs Naomi Malau said “this is a great achievement and dream come true for Malampa handicraft producers.

“As a community company, the Centre will be able to operate as a legal business that will bring in revenue to benefit the lives of our people in Malampa.”

The MALAMPA Skills Centre, through the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, has played a critical role in the development of this initiative.

“We chose the Community Company structure because it ensures that the benefits of the Handicraft Centre goes back to the community, and because it has strong controls over use and disposal of assets,” said Mr Ellis Silas, MALAMPA Skills Centre Manager.

The Community Company is a type of company designed to assist community groups in managing what they own and their businesses.

It is intended to be run as a business, but instead of individual owners benefitting from the success of the business, the community as a whole will benefit.

VFSC Acting Commissioner, John Stevens Tougon commented that “the Community Company can in some cases be considered as an alternative to charitable trusts and cooperatives”.

In addition to assistance from the MALAMPA Skills Centre, the MALAMPA Handicraft Centre has also been supported by the Australian Government’s Governance for Growth program, with a particular focus on strengthening operations of the Company Board.

The robust governance of the MALAMPA Handicraft Centre is ensuring a shift away from aid dependency and the weak sustainability of project-based modalities.

Visitors to Lakatoro looking for a special souvenir can find the Handicraft Centre behind the market house.

The Centre also has a wholesale catalogue which handicraft sellers in Port Vila and elsewhere can use to order genuine, quality handicrafts.