Turkana Tannery Supporting Communities Mitigate Impact of Drought

The Lodwar Tannery was initiated with the objective of building community resilience to drought through alternative livelihoods. Photo: UNDP Kenya /Ngele Ali.

The Lodwar Tannery was initiated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Kenya, in partnership with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) with the objective of building community resilience to drought through alternative livelihoods.

The project was community managed and operated the tannery with most processing being done manually.  UNDP invested a total of KES 20,000,000 (USD 200,00) in a building structure, equipment and training. After the initial phase, the Turkana County Government, through the County Ministry of Pastoral Economy joined the partnership and further invested KES 19,000,000 (USD 190,000) in additional building block and equipment.

In collaboration with the Kenya Leather Development Council (KLDC), ten youth have been trained on leather tanning, fabrication and marketing of leather products.

Ms. Sarah Lokwawi a mother of two is one of the trainees. Before she came to the tannery, she was a traditional brew maker, constantly getting into trouble with the authorities while taking home meagre returns. “I am really excited to see how this tannery will transform this area when we start operating full time. In only one month, we have learnt a lot about the tanning process and production of leather goods. I plan to work diligently so that I can be able to educate my girls through the savings I make here. I already feel empowered and I want my girls to be better than me!” says the 26 year old mother.

Turkanas are a pastoralist community. Hides and skins are easily available. However, in the past, herders have made very little from the sale. The tannery promises to increase their income through value addition. The tannery will also provide employment opportunities for the youth from around the area.

The tannery will operate as a commercial entity dealing in leather value chain. This will involve: collection, purchase and transportation of hides and skin from the entire Turkana County; grading and selection of hide and skin; tanning hide and skin into leather; production of leather goods; branding and marketing of manufactured leather goods and supply of surplus processed leather to other manufacturers.

Specific support to the Tannery from UNDP through NDMA includes; an environmental impact assessment; construction of one tanning hall including all required infrastructure such as the effluent treatment plant; provision of a tanning drum; provision of required leather production machinery and training of ten 10 tannery assistants in tanning and leather goods production.

While a raw goat hide is sold at KES 150, the tanning process is expected to add its value to KES 2000.00 and with production of leather goods, the process will increase the value of the leather from KES 2000.00 to an approximately KSH 5000.00 (per goat skin). Some of the products made at the tannery workshop include; key holders, leather shoes, bags, belts and table mats.

The tannery, which is the only such facility in the county, is expected to be in full operation by mid-2017.

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