FRIDAY October 2, 2020
By Adam Ihucha
Tranquility News Correspondent, Arusha, Tanzania
Oikos East Africa has equipped a leather tannery centre with working gear valued at Sh13 million in its latest initiative to spur value addition of livestock skins in the natural resources-rich Longido District, Arusha Region, Tanzania.
Oikos East Africa had initially trained the Enduimet pastoralist community in running a newly established leather-processing centre at Ildonyo Village, Sinya Ward, in the district to add value to the neglected leather commodity.
It then provided them with the equipment through a European Union funded project, namely Conserving Neighbouring Ecosystems in Kenya and Tanzania (CONNEKT).
A prominent leather designer, also funded by CONNEKT, is currently supporting dozens of artisans. The total investment for the initiative exceeds Sh50 million.
The heavy-duty equipment include two cutting-edge sewing machines, leather-cutting tables and benches, several cabinets, 30 chairs, a 5,000-litre water reservoir and hand-washing facilities.
“Through the CONNEKT project, we are empowering the pastoralist community to process livestock skins,” the Oikos East Africa Managing Director, Ms Mary Birdi, said during a ceremony to hand over the equipment recently, adding:
“The overarching goal of this initiative is to create a commercial leather industry hub in the livestock-rich Northern Tanzania region.”
The whole idea, she said, is to offer the pastoralists skills for using livestock hides to make accessories and footwear for local markets as an alternative income generating venture.
The livestock skin hides byproduct is often thrown away in villages forming the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Ms Birdi said her organisation is providing technical and advisory assistance to build the capacity of the pastoralists to use organic ingredients including papaya, lime and mimosa for doing rawhide tanning.
Twenty four members from the vulnerable pastoralist community have been trained in raw skin tanning, beadwork and production of handmade leather finished products in various designs.
With the two-week training held at Mkuru Natural Leather Training Centre late in 2019, the pastoralists have become competent enough to make high quality leather products.
“Enabling livestock keepers to harness the leather industry is a game changer,” said Ms Birdi, believing the strategic skills transferring initiative is diversifying income generating activities for the rural folks.
Indeed, beneficiaries of the initiative concurred with her saying the theoretical and practical training has equipped them with necessary knowledge and skills for turning a raw skin into leather and using the leather for producing bags, belts and key holders, among others.
“If I had tools, I could produce belts and other stuff right away,” said a pastoralist from TingaTinga Village, Mr Kilembu Nguchicha, adding: “I’ve fallen in love with the leather processing lessons, I never knew before that one could process leather by using an ordinary small bucket.”
Christina Lomayani from Irkaswa Village vowed to widely share the knowledge and skills she acquired to ensure pastoralists no longer throw away goats, sheep and cows’ raw hides.
“With such knowledge and skills they will add the value of the skins instead of complaining of lack of market,” she explained.
Enduimet Division Secretary, Mr Mbarouk Mafanga Mbarouk, hoped in his keynote address that the leather initiative would create new decent employment and income generating opportunities for the Enduimet pastoralist community.
“The district council highly recognises and supports the equipped leather centre, as it complements the national strategy for promoting small-scale industries in the country,” the Longido District Community Development Officer, Ms Betty Majele, said in turn.
The European Union funded the training and equipment for the centre through the CONNEKT project to increase benefits accrued from the pastoral community coexisting with wildlife, Ms Birdi explained.
The programme promotes sustainable use of natural resources as tools for fighting against poverty and boosting socio-economic development in the Greater Kilimanjaro ecosystem which stretches across southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.
Oikos East Africa is a Tanzanian non-governmental organisation based in Arusha where it has since 1999 been promoting protection of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources as tools for fighting against poverty and boosting socio-economic development.