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Mother ekes out a living through simple innovation

For the last eight years, Jane Kanini, a 38 year old single mother and a resident of Mumbuni location has been making bird cages at the Grogan light industry area in downtown Machakos.
And to say the least this trade which uses wires extracted from old tyres, has become the mainstay for her small family and formed part and parcel of her daily life.
Kanini is nevertheless proud about what she does despite the fact that many of her ilk would take a second thought before venturing into such an undertaking.
She says the employment has not only given her something to do but also helped in fending for her family and paying school fees for her children.
To keep the business in function, Kanini has to part with an annual fee of sh 3,850 as operation license payable to the County government.
In additional she pays another sh 200 to the owner of the shack where she stores her products.
To make a single cage entails ingenuity, hard work and patience akin to that of the mythical saint.
This, according to Kanini is the first requirement for anyone aspiring to venture into the trade.
This ensures the final product is not only durable but is able to hold any bird securely and in a healthy condition irrespective of the duration.
“The cost of cages depends on the size and the preference of the client,” she said when KNA visited her stall.
It costs Kanini between sh500 and sh550 to buy a single tyre depending on its size which she said ranges from 9, 12, 70 and 827.
Apart from using the tyres to extract the wires the residue rubber is used to make other items such as traditional sandals commonly referred to as akalas,rubber strings while the peel-offs are used in the repair of shoe soles.
To achieve her targets for the day, the businesswoman occasionally hires the services of other people since she cannot manage everything on her own.
Asked whether she went for any training before venturing into the enterprise, Kanini said it was all out of necessity to make it make both ends meet.
“I never went for any training college to learn the art of coiling these cages. I initially learned it from a man who used to make similar cages and through sheer will managed to start out on my own,” she explained.
On average, she can churn out three cages a day with each selling at a rate of sh 350 to 400.
However due to a limited client base, she only manages to sell at least one unit per day which translates to aboutSh. 9,600 per month.
The low sales are occasioned by competition from other sellers who make the same products in the area.In fact, just close to her shop is another outlet which sells bird cages.Nevertheless, this has never discouraged her resolve to keep going.
Other challenges include a dwindling demand for rubber products as most people nowadays prefer using things made from other materials such as nylon and wood especially for household goods such as beds.
And to address these and other unforeseen challenges, Kanini plans to come up with a different business which she intends to start near her place of residence and leave the current job to someone to manage.
Her parting word is a call for the recognition of small cottage industries especially those less known by many in order to help uplift the lives of the majority poor.
She believes with such sensitization, the advantages to be reaped far outweigh what the government may achieve through launching of mega projects which may only assist a few individuals leaving millions others wallowing in poverty.
“The government should find a ready market for local shoes and bird cages since they are not being recognized in the society yet there are people who walk bare-footed at a time the country can produce such products at affordable prices,” she says.
By Samuel Maina/Peter Nzioki

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