For the last two years I have been supporting the work of the Friends of the Kinangop Plateau and their efforts to save the Endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw Macronyx sharpei. One of the key elements of the FOKP strategy is the Njabini Woolshop, a co-operative which buys wool from local farmers and hires local people to produce woollen goods. The products coming out of the woolshop have shown huge improvements in the last year, and I hope everyone will join me in heartily congratulating the whole Njabini team for their hard work and dedication.
THREE MONTHS UPDATES.
Samuel Bakari, May 2010
The Njabini Wool Spinning workshop has continued to grow, although it has taken longer than anticipated, the growth has continued to economically empower the youths working in the workshop as well the sheep farmers. However challenges has persistently occurred one after the other.
WORKING WITH THE FARMERS:
After a long period of prolonged drought, across most of the country, for the whole of last year, Kenya has continued to receive heavy rains as from November last year to date. This has been a blessing to all of us. As a result, shearing has not been possible due to the heavy rains. This did not however affect our supply of wool as we had sheared enough wool to take us through hard times. This was regularly supplemented by shearing from small-scale farmers. Many flocks are ready for shearing and are waiting for rains to subside. We are also looking forward to that as our fleece stock is running down.
Spinning underlines the quality and the type of product. This is dictated by the skill of the spinner, the quality of wool and to a large extent the type of spinning wheels and carders in use. Spinning and carding equipment has always been a challenge as the wheels used at the workshop are locally made and are not very efficient as compared to professional.
We have continued to enjoy new spinning techniques and tricks from Janice who have everyday continued to come with new ideas. She has given us a lot of literature materials for reference including magazines especially the famous spin-off published in US. This has gone a long way in motivating the spinners and provides new ideas.
We have been lucky to have two super spinning wheels one we received from friends through Janice and the other was Janice’s, who was with us for a period, this was very kind of her as she uses it and she let us have it for more than four months. The wheels have given us another perspective and we have been able produce a wide range of fine yarns. For the first months of this year we have been able to supply wool yarn to Helping Hand-Naivasha. Most of other outlets have not been able to take yarns as usual for unclear reasons. This has affected our income from sale of yarns, which has continued to be one of the challenges. On the other hand end user products has improved.
Rug weaving has continued to improve in all aspects, that is: design, texture and colour. Janice has relentlessly taught us new techniques and design, she has also bought us very informative books for reference. The big floor loom has been repaired, thanks to Janice’s skills, and it is now operational. This has moved us to greater heights in weaving. New product has hit the market and is doing well so far, woven scarves. This has proved to be a good line and cuts across a broad class of buyers including even the local market, which is not easy with the rugs. The combination is one of our strengths that we have lately achieved.
MARKETING AND SALES
Marketing is one of the areas that we have not been to achieve to our best; this is due to a number of challenges that we have not been able to overcome. Although we have been to adequately improve our quality and consecutively sales, we have realised the need to improve on our capacity of production and accumulate working capital. We have been in many cases, forced to sell yarns instead of processing it from the workshop. This is because selling of rugs at current set up takes relatively long time to as compared to yarns, which are in most cases easy to sell. However yarn processed to a final product fetches more due to the value added and involves more people thereby creating more employment. The challenge now is to pay the labour force, as they have to wait until the product is sold, thereby effecting the production and taking of more weavers. We are building on savings to tackle this such that the weavers can be paid timely even if the products they have woven is not sold. This is taking long however.
Sales of Rugs has, as mentioned gone up, we attracted an order from a regular customer. We also benefited from another sale bazaar at the US embassy where we sold seven knitted scarves, five rugs. We also introduced the woven scarves and all the woven scarves that we had sold out immediately though we had only five as we had just learned how to weave them from Janice and this was the first lot. We made sales totalling to KES 16,300.
We have continued to make one-on-one, marketing to potential buyers. The contacts from Goodie, Cheli and Peacock and African Pro-poor Tourism Development Center (APTDC) are still followed. We are looking for a potential order from APTDC while a recent visit to Cheli and Peackock shows hope of potential purchase.
We are following a contact for sale of scarves and we are meeting the first potential long time buyer in two weeks time. We are also moving around to potential clients.
We managed to participate in Roslyn’s Spring Fling on 17th April where we were able to interact with new people and got some contacts.
The Brochures are really becoming handy and has made marketing and advocacy a lot easier. We don’t know what we would be doing without them, so thanks to everybody involved in their production.
A lot of thanks go to all you who have contributed and have been always concerned with the welfare of the Njabini Wool Spinning Workshop as a tool for conservation of the Kinangop Grasslands. Particularly David Fox for your generous support, Charlie Moores and Luca Borghesio for your continued devotion. We cannot fail to thank Janice for her motivation throughout the time we have been in contact.
We promise that your efforts will always be transformed to trickle down to conservation.