A Dance of Hope


Hathim and other members of the boduberu group, at a performance. Photo: Hathim Ahmed 2011.

The sweat flows in a steady trickle down Hathim Ahmed’s face. His heart is thumping and his hands are throbbing, but he keeps on beating on the drum, his head bobbing in tune with the song. As the performance reaches its crescendo, Hathim increases his tempo, and sees the dancers gyrate their bodies to the wild beats, some of them going into frantic trances.

As the ‘boduberu’ performance (Maldivian music involving traditional drums) draws to a close for the night, the resort guests leave the dance floor to quench their thirst. Hathim wipes his forehead on his shirt sleeves and adjusts his sarong - part of the traditional attire worn by his performing group. As he does, Hathim sees the Resort Manager approaching and gives him a beaming smile, his set of pearly whites sparkling like the stars above him, scattered across the balmy tropical island.

“I hope the shipment was up to your satisfaction?” Hathim inquires of the Manager.

Highlights

  • The P4D Forum held in the South brought together local communities, the private sector and resorts to form direct linkages and relationships to drive sustainable growth.
  • This included commitment towards empowering and creating opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to network with the private sector.
  • Officials from the Business Development Service Center, whom Hathim met at the Forum, helped him form a Cooperative Society on his island, and provided technical assistance in wood carving.
  • Today, the Katolla Cooperative Society specializes in making Maldivian traditional boats, and are in talks with several resorts to provide these boats to the souvenir shops.

“But of course. We never doubt the quality from Katolla. Excellent performance by the way,” the Manager gives Hathim’s hand a vigorous shake.

Hathim is the proud founder of the Katolla Cooperative Society from the island of Hoandehdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll in the South of the Maldives. While many members of the Cooperative are avid ‘boduberu’ performers, they have also ventured into markets such as wood carving, as a means of increasing livelihoods for the island community. In the resort Hathim had performed in, the Cooperative had today delivered over 50 handmade wooden dhoni’s (Maldivian boats) to the resort’s management, which they would gift as souvenirs to the tourists.  

This business opportunity presented itself to Hathim when he participated at the Government and United Nations Development Programme-led “Partnering 4 Development” (P4D) Forum. “We had plans to form a Cooperative Society - my ‘boduberu’ group members and I, and venture into other markets. But we were lacking direction and struggling for opportunities,” Hathim says. It was at the forum that Hathim saw avenues to link up to the resort markets for opportunities for business deals.

The P4D Forum held in the South brought together local communities, the private sector and resorts to form direct linkages and relationships to drive sustainable growth. This included commitment towards empowering and creating opportunities for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to network with the private sector.

At the Forum, Hathim was introduced to the Business Development Service Center (BDSC) officials.  The BDSC helped him to form a Cooperative Society on his island, and provided technical assistance in wood carving. Hathim as the Cooperative Chairman, using the networks established at the P4D Forum, played a lead role in engaging with UNDP and BDSC to seek potential markets to sell the Cooperative’s products to. Through these engagements, the Cooperative has learnt the importance of establishing long term business relationships, and to provide services with maximum quality.

“Through the Forum we saw avenues to engage with neighboring resorts for opportunities for business deals,” Hathim points out. Today, the Katolla Cooperative Society specializes in making Maldivian traditional boats, which can be made in any size, dismantled for easy package, and comes with an instruction manual. Following some successful partnerships, they are also in talks with several resorts to provide these boats for souvenir shops and wood-carved vases for the spas.

“We started by beating on drums, but now the Katolla Cooperative Society actually has much to go into a song and dance about,” adds a hopeful Hathim.