Local producer and marketer of hand- crafted paper products Phumani Paper is considering the potential of exporting its products to neighbouring countries, entering new markets and securing more consistent clients within South Africa.
The focus on South African clients is aimed at helping the company grow and attain financial security.
“This will also enable Phumani Paper to see where a need for its products exists in the market. “The company can then cater to and expand on those needs, which will generate more income and help to create more work opportunities for artisans,” says interim programme manager Mandy-Lee Pietersen.
“Phumani Paper aims to generate more income from sales and to be more commercially driven. “With that goal in mind, the company needs to expand into new markets,” Pietersen adds.
Growth over the last few years has been slow for the Johannesburg-based company owing to the economic downturn.
The manufacturer’s stunted growth is the result of local and international markets being dominated by cheap paper imports from Thailand, India and Japan, she states.
“Nevertheless, while we are still feeling the effects of the economic downturn, things are slowly starting to look up. “The company is constantly working on improving production and creating inno- vations,” she reports.
One of its innovations included the development of a solar-powered drying system for its ecofuel briquettes, in 2010.
The ecofuel briquette is made from waste plant and paper fibre, used water and rotting or leftover paper pulp. The briquettes can be used as an alternative source of energy for cooking and heating, and serve an environmental purpose as well.
Invasive plant species can also be con- verted into a briquette, which helps to preserve the country’s indigenous biodiversity.
The solar dryer decreases the drying time of the ecofuel briquette and helps to increase production. The first completed dryer is now ready for delivery.
A request for a solar dryer for a project being led by the Department of Agriculture has also been received, says Pietersen.
In the past two years, Phumani Paper has been focusing on supporting paper-making artisans and establishing archival paper-making units in Winterveld, in the North West, Welkom, in the Free State, Ivory Park, in Gauteng, and Bosele, in North West province.
The sites are situated in rural areas and serve as job creation enterprises.
Renovations have been completed at two of the two sites.
“With archival paper making, you need to ensure that the work area is well ventilated, clean and that no excess dust is present,” says Pietersen.
Another project the company is involved in is the design of paper mache pets. This project is being undertaken by the industrial design students at the University of Johannesburg, where the pets are designed and manufac- tured by a community-based producer group, and then taken to market.
Phumani Paper has also embarked on an engineering project to improve the mechanisms, and consequently the efficiency, of the beaters used in the paper-making process, says Pietersen.
She emphasises that the manufacturing of its products assist in creating jobs and reducing waste. “Our production process helps to inspire, educate and empower individuals, making a difference in their lives,” she adds.
Phumani Paper’s goals for the future are to become financially stable and secure, while not losing sight of its social development goals.