Mauritania: Heritage, tradition and creativity for sustainable development in Mauritania


Part of Mauritania's strategic fight against its high poverty rates is to develop tourism and related areas. The Joint Programme supported this goal by encouraging the growth of Mauritania's cultural sector as a way to drive development and generate incomes, with particular emphasis on women's activities. The programme focused on strengthening the national capacity to develop and promote cultural businesses, as well as the management, conservation and enhancement of the country's cultural heritage.

The programme involved assessing the impact that traditions and cultural values have on development, and changing attitudes in order to enact development programmes, train cultural managers, and encourage small-, medium- and micro-businesses in the cultural sector.

It promoted the development of cultural goods and services by strengthening resources and capacities for heritage management and conservation. It is also focused on devising income generating activities, particularly around cultural tourism, and with an emphasis on women's enterprises. Priority was given to pilot activities that can be replicated by the authorities. 

Overall, the programme created optimism among beneficiaries about increasing their revenue by taking advantage of the programme's training activities, microcredit, modernized production and drying techniques for couscous and spaces developed for craftsmen. 

Among the programme's main achievements:

  • Support was provided to NGOs, artists and local authorities to organize a series of festivals, fairs and exhibitions. Local and national authorities, associations and youth networks were mobilized to promote Mauritanian cultural products and tourism. More than 20 cities and communities now have their own festivals, which have helped to re-establish endangered aspects of Mauritania's cultural heritage such as poetry, songs, dances and traditional musical instruments. The festivals have led to the emergence of a market for cultural events, sponsors, advertising and the development of event-based communication. They also spurred awareness among private investors of the opportunities for rehabilitation and construction of public infrastructure (water supply, rehabilitation of health centers, etc).
  • A partnership was established with a microfinance institution to develop an offer for small entrepreneurs producing handicrafts. In Atar, an association representing 400 women used 800,000 UM of to rent and equip a fairground, which produces a net income of 180,000 UM per month, and creates job opportunities for other women during celebrations held there. Overall, more than 45,750 participants, 40% of them women, used the offer, with a recovery rate of 96%.
  • The introduction of new drying technologies for couscous, along with training and the supply of modern and hygienic equipment to women's associations, has revolutionized couscous productivity and production techniques. While traditional methods produce 10 kilos of couscous over a 3-day drying period, the new technology allows women to produce 20 kilos of couscous a day. With a drying time of just three hours, the new technologies afford women a significant saving in time, which they can dedicate to other income-generating activities.
  • Two craft villages were established bringing together artisans from all sectors at a single site. These centers will serve as models to be replicated by the government in all regions of the country.
  • The elaboration of a national communication campaign contributed to promoting culture diversity and development across the country. In particular, 12 radio programmes broadcasted on the National Radio and 1 TV programme was produced.


Click for more detailed results of the Joint Programmes in Mauritania (in French).



The Joint Programme in action


Programme Dates 05 Feb 2009 - 10 Feb 2013
Net funded amount $3,560,293
Participating UN agencies UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA
National partners Ministère chargé de la Culture, de la Jeunesse et des Sports (MCJS) ; Ministère chargé du Commerce, de l’Industrie, de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme (MCIAT) ; Fédération du Tourisme ; Chambre Nationale de l’Artisanat et des Métiers ; Autorités administratives régionales ; - Autorités communales ; Organisations de la société civile
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