Jun 7, 2010

Three-months report (Feb-Apr 2010) from Njabini

Dear everybody – Sammy Bakari just sent us this update on the activities of the Njabini woolspinning workshop, one of the projects that we are supporting.
As you know, the Njabini workshop is an eco-friendly small business that aims to save the habitat of Sharpe’s Longclaw by creating a market for the wool produced by the sheep grazing in the highland grasslands of Kenya – the only habitat where Sharpe’s Longclaw lives.
As part of our agreement with Njabini, every third month Sammy sends to us updates on the development of the activities of the workshop. This is the third update, covering the period from February to April 2010.
I hope you will enjoy reading Sammy’s report – and I also hope you will feel proud of our good results. Think that for each 100 kg of wool that the workshop buys, one hectare of grassland is preserved, and one hectare of grassland is the home to two pairs of Sharpe’s Longclaw!

All the best, Luca


The Njabini woolspinning workshop: Three months update February to April 2010

By Samuel Bakari

The Njabini Wool Spinning workshop has continued to grow. 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.

After a long period of prolonged drought, across most of the country, for the whole of 2009, Kenya has received heavy rains as from November last year to now. This has been a blessing to all of us. However, due to the rain, shearing has not been possible. Fortunately, this did not affect our supply of wool as we had stored enough wool to take us through the hard times. Now many sheep are ready for shearing and are waiting for rains to subside. We are 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 of low quality and are not very efficient as compared to professional equipment. We have continued to learn new spinning techniques and tricks from Janice who have everyday continued to come with new ideas [LUCA’S NOTE: JANICE IS THE AMERICAN FIBER ARTIST WHO HAS BEEN WORKING WITH US SINCE LAST YEAR AND IS TEACHING TO NJABINI NEW WEAVING AND SPINNING TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE THEIR PRODUCTS]. Janice has given us a lot of literature materials for reference including magazines. This has gone a long way in motivating the spinners and providing new ideas.
We have been lucky to receive two new 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 she as she uses 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 shops in Naivasha. Unfortunately, most of the other shops have not been able to buy yarns due to the economic crisis that is hitting Kenya. 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.

Photo below: Margaret and Regina spinning using the new spinning wheels-Regina is with Janice’s wheel. Emma, in the front, is using a Kenya-made wheel.

Rug weaving has continued to improve in design, texture and colour. Janice has relentlessly taught us new techniques and design, she has also bought us very informative books for reference. Our big 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 is one of the areas that we have not been to achieve to our best; due to a number of challenges that we have not been able to overcome. Although we have been able to improve the quality of our products, we realise the need to improve also on our capacity of production and accumulate working capital. We have been in many cases forced to sell yarn instead of weaving it into products such as scarves or rugs that could fetch a higher price on the market. 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 money 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 affecting 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 gone up, we attracted orders from several customers. We also benefited from another sale bazaar at the US embassy where we sold seven knitted scarves and 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 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 to Roslyn’s Spring Fling on 17th April where we were able to interact with new people and got some contacts.

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 Knausenberger for her motivation throughout the time we have been in contact.

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