The Voice of a Covalima Businessman: Marcelino Soares Pinto
We here at Peace Dividend Trust often talk about connecting “buyers to suppliers” through our business matchmaking program. To get a better idea of what some of these “suppliers” look like, I did a week long district excursion with the office flip video camera. One of the first people I met with was Mr. Marcelino Soares Pinto in Suai, Covalima. He had quite the story to tell.
If you don’t speak Tetum, the video might be a little hard to understand. It’s still worth watching though, if only to see the wound in Mr. Pinto’s leg (a reminder of his time with the FALINTIL resistance force and Timor-Leste’s current Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão). My conversation with Mr. Pinto reminded me that everyone in Timor-Leste who’s lived through some, or all of the events including and subsequent to the 1975 Indonesian invasion has a poignant voice about the country’s past and today’s state of affairs. Business is getting better since the militia violence in 1999 that razed the town and destroyed all of Mr. Pinto’s materials, buildings and equipment. But it’s still not what it used to be in the early 90’s when Mr. Pinto was running a rattan factory that employed over 20 people.
Looking back over the past few years though, Mr. Pinto can show you tangible signs of improvement. He shows us his new house that just finished being built, thanks to an influx of requests from the international presence in Suai, the local community, and occasionally buyers from other districts. Looking at the PDM-TL matchmaking database, I found 30 instances in which PDT matchmakers in Suai were able to match a buyer’s request for furniture to Mr. Pinto’s Rattan workshop, bringing in over $3,000. Not bad for a company where the cost of operation and materials is quite low.
Mr. Pinto now works with five employees, but he has plans for expansion. The economy, he thinks, is getting better, but it hasn’t happened without the help of market advocacy through services like PDT’s matchmaking program. Local products are getting better visibility and it’s easier to find buyers, not just within his local suco of Ogues, but across the district and the country as well.
Training is Mr. Pinto’s next big focus, to ensure that the rattan industry, and his expertise, moves forward. He has already taught workshops in neighboring district Bobonaro and his home district of Covalima. His next target is his district’s youth, who he wants to invite en masse to come to his outfit and learn the trade. The PDT matchmaking team will keep doing its part to find buyers for his wares.
If you’re interested in some neat rattan furniture, take a trip to Saui, Covalima and visit PDT’s office there. If that’s a bit far for you, check out Buka Moris Rottan’s profile on the BuildingMarket.org web portal or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.