In a small district in the interior of the state of Paraíba, land castigated by interminable drought, a group of artisans and leather producers made arise the hope of production, growth and even export of products made out of cattle and goat leather.
Six years ago, they created Arteza – The Cooperative of Leather Producers and Artisans of Ribeira District -, in the city of Cabaceiras, in Cariri Valley, 200 kilometers away from state capital João Pessoa.
The machinery used to cut the leather, imported from Germany, was purchased with aid from the federal government and from the government of the state of Paraíba. Monthly production is around 1,500 handcrafted products. However, the cooperative has the capacity to process 500 hides a day.
“What is lacking is specialized labor,” explained the president of Arteza, José Itamar Ramos. So as to guarantee the quality of the products and growth of production, the organization is developing a training center and a company incubator, with the help of partners.
Leather production in the city of Cabaceiras began many years back, as the city is one of the main goat and sheep producers in the region.
Ramos explains that, traditionally, production of hats, baseball caps, articles for cattle herding, sandals and belts are passed on from generation to generation, maintaining their unique decorations, stitching and finishing.
“This regional artistic reference has also guided the design of new products, such as accessories for clothing, riding and office equipment, and furniture,” he explained.
According to him, it is participation in fairs throughout Brazil that guarantees sales of products in various states and has even brought the opportunity of sending products to Italy, Germany and Portugal. The Arab countries are also considered potential markets.
Ramos explained that every year the cooperative participates in around 12 fairs in different states and in approximately eight popular fairs in the region.
“These fairs are visited by people from all around the country, and from abroad,” explained Ramos.
Therefore, the contracts made during the fairs become orders, and they are closed directly with shop owners and importers.
Arteza currently has 28 associates. As the entire family of the associates work, around 120 people participate in the event.
The leather producers from Ribeira also make an effort to be ecologically correct. The hides are tanned with vegetable tannin (a plant that is native to the state of Paraíba) that, different from chemical products, does not pollute the environment.
Goat leather costs around 30% more than cattle leather, however, as it is produced in the city itself, this ends up as an advantage for the Ribeira artisans.
“Goat leather products are the most successful products and buyers do not worry about paying more,” stated Ramos.
The training center and the company incubator started operating in November, as a result of the technical cooperation between the federal government, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the National Service of Industrial Education (Senai) and the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae).
The incentive to qualify labor in Ribeira district is part of the “Competition Project”, whose objective is to guarantee support to productive chains in civil construction, leather, shoes, dairy products, and selected Local Productive Arrangements, under a regional vision and guaranteeing competitiveness of these productive chains in the nine states of northeastern Brazil.
The first class of future businessmen from Ribeira will be trained for six months. “The project focuses on young people, over 16 years of age, who will have an opportunity to prepare themselves and proceed with the region’s potential,” explained Ramos.
The city of Cabaceiras was the site for the filming of comedy A Dog’s Will (O Auto da Compadecida, in Portuguese). Directed by Guel Arraes, the film is an adaptation of the play by writer Ariano Suassuna, who describes cultural aspects and games from his childhood, spent in the small city of Taperoá, one of the cities in Cariri, close to Cabaceiras.
First of all a successful miniseries with 4 chapters was prepared, exhibited by Brazilian television channel Rede Globo in January 1998. When “O Auto da Compadecida” became a film it repeated the success of the series, attracting 2 million spectators to the movies.
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