Craftsmanship is important, because it is associated with memory, nostalgia, traditions, history, and an important source of livelihood for many men and women across the Middle East. International trade is often cut off in this region, because there are tensions and conflicts that isolate the artisans even more. Globalisation on the other hand also challenges the traditional forms of craftsmanship because mass productions, for example of kilims and carpets, in big factories can supply products at a lower cost. People living in communities may find it demanding to learn the traditional crafts, and instead seek work in factories or migrate to bigger cities to earn more. A staggering 25% of young people in the region are jobless and women are three times less likely than men to seek work. While many crafts people in the region cannot adapt to this competition, environmental and climatic changes also have an impact on traditional craftsmanship in the region.
The general public might have a bad perception for doing business in the MENAP-countries (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan). However, the reality is very different. There are so many opportunities and they are underestimated and undervalued. Quality craftsmanship that involves machinery, vehicles and new technology that hacks, recycles, adapts and fixes quality objects, have so much potential for global trade. At the same time, consumers in the developed world, increasingly want ethically made, slow produced products, that reflect their lifestyle and support social causes. Østerland is a mission and an approach to connect craftsmen with a global market and show how craftsmanship can engage with issues like sustaining livelihoods and preserving traditions by creating strategic partnerships in the region.