As regular readers will know I have been supporting a fantastic project on Kenya’s Kinangop Plateau which aims to help the Endangered Sharpe’s Longclaw by persuading landowners to rear sheep and sell wool rather than convert the rapidly disappearing grasslands the longclaw depends on into agriculture (mainly sweet potatoes). (For background info please have a look at Friends of Kinangop Plateau)
Sammy Bakari has been providing three-monthly updates on the Friends of Kinangop Plateau-managed Njabini Woolshop and the amazing progress that’s been made on the quality of the products that are being produced their. As ever I would like to convey my sincere support for the team at Njabini – and all the friends and colleagues that I made on my visits there over the last few years. If you would like to help support these important efforts – and any support whatsoever will be appreciated – please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
WOOL PURCHASE AND SPINNING
After the long rains, wool shearing is almost back to normal safe of some days when it is extremely cold. Demand of spun wool has gone up all over sudden and everybody is looking for wool. Kenya Weaverbird is taking medium 2ply wool every other week, Helping hands – Naivasha is opened after the school break, Trio Crafts is looking for thick rug wool while Ziwani-Nyahururu is a new contact looking for single fine yarn. Ultimately, spinners are busy since the need for even more fine and medium 2ply wool for use in the workshop has gone up. However shearing of sheep in many farms will be done on September.
To improve on the spinning technique and add onto what Janice [Janice G Knausenberger, an American yarn expert and enthusiastic and generous supporter of the woolshop who was based in Nairobi for several years but has now returned to the US] has taught, the spinners will be having an opportunity to visit a women group in Molo. The group is under technical support from Network for Ecofarming in Africa (NECOFA). This is part of an exchange programme as the group has visited Njabini Wool Spinning Workshop two times now. Although it’s a relatively new group, it has been doing a lot of fine spinning and knitting, a combination that Njabini is craving for in order to increase on its variety. The visit is facilitated by Nature Kenya as part of while Joan one of the conservation officer will accompany the team which comprises of Margaret, Emma and Regina all spinners, Lucy a knitter and Jeff who is a weaver.
Weaving has continued to improve with the day. This is not only due to the commitment of the weavers but also improved quality spinning. The weavers has continued to increase their keenness and have not shied from trying new designs and techniques as taught by Janice. The result is breathtaking and now everybody is reckoning (happy) with the end product.
PRODUCTION AND MARKETING
Over the last three months production has tremendously increased both in quantity and variety. Production of rugs has gone up with increased purchases. A regular client asked for three pieces of 3 feet by 4 feet and a 4 feet by 6 feet which saw the weavers busy over the month of May, while he came for two more pieces the towards the end.
of July. This is one of the clients that helps attest to the quality. Rugs commissioned during the exhibition at the International day of Biodiversity exhibition at the National Museums of Kenya Nairobi were all delivered in time. At last, the rug for African Propoor Tourism Development (the one shown under progress in above photo) was finally collected, it is awaiting mailing to the said buyer who is in UK. This we are hoping it will attract more orders, the quality was beyond the expectation of the APTD officer.
From the marketing efforts, we have got into contact with a potential buyer who is looking for 8 big pieces, 1m by 2m, and have done down payment of 50%. His work is one of the major works that is underway in the workshop. I wish Janice you were around and you would just be happy with how active we all are.
At the same time, the scarf craze is going on very well and the weavers are still keeping abreast. More were dropped at Nature Kenya’s shop after all the pieces that were initially left were swept by just one happy buyer.
We were commissioned to do 20 hats for Flying Kites, an American charity that is helping a children center in Njabini. After taking a longer time than agreed though, the clients were very much pleased by the quality. As a result, they have commissioned other 45 pieces of hats and 50 scarves! We are all happy! This looks like a regular buyer and we are keeping our fingers closed as we work on best quality.