Background: Traditional knowledge of craft production supports the livelihood of everybody from children to adults of both genders and is passed down from generation to generation. This knowledge results from a combination of creativity, cultural heritage and the environment of the crafts people. Ethiopia is the home to people with the most diverse knowledge of ethno-linguistic backgrounds, with their customs, arts and handicrafts which support the livelihood of the community. However, currently, the status of the handicrafts people and their skills has been undermined; either being lost or becoming endangered and needs critical intervention to save the indigenous traditional products and guarantee intergenerational transmission of the handicraftsmenâ€™s skills. Objectives: The objective of this study was to assess the current status of handicraftsmen and their skill products in supporting the livelihood of Zeyse, and Ganta communities in Southern Ethiopia. Method: The research method was based on an ethnographic approach including qualitative data collection. Data were collected from focus group discussions (=Native Individuals) to achieve the goals of the research and all of the discussants were indigenous members of each community. A qualitative research design was used and the data collected were organized and analyzed around the key themes of the research area. Results: The result showed skill made various products including pots, water cans, tank, metal goods of different types (( hoe, knife, sickle, Pick axe), designs of traditionally made clothes(Gabi,Netsela,Kuta),leather and leathery products(belts, skin, traditional shoes,bed)and other items of various grades and sizes to support the livelihood of the handicraftsmen as well the community. Moreover, factors including lack of social recognition of the profession and professionals, poverty related factors, substitution of handicraftsmen products by the modern goods and problem of intergenerational transmission of the skills to their children were observed as the major factors that affect the professional skills of the handicraftsmen. The result also showed these valuable craftsmen skills and their indigenous technological knowledge products were at a risk of getting endangered, and most of the professionals were marginalized socially.
Concluding Remarks and Recommendations: The study result indicated current status of skill based specific products of handicraftsmen for the livelihood of the professionals as well as the communities. However, valuable craftspeople skills and indigenous technological knowledge products were at a risk of getting endangered, and most of the professionals were marginalized socially. Therefore, this skill system of indigenous technological knowledge must be supported by the community in general, policy makers and non- governmental organizations in particular to guarantee crafts peopleâ€™s skill transmission from generation to generation. Moreover, we need to recognize endangered social status of the craftsmen, empower them professionally, economically and upgrade their social status to protect their culture of indigenous technological knowledge system.
Keywords: Handicraftsmen, Indigenous technological knowledge, endangered, Leather, Livelihood, metal products, pottery.