The high unemployment rate among graduates has seen some resort to doing menial jobs while others turn their passion into a source of income.
Newton Owino who majored in leather chemistry in college has turned his knowledge into a money-minting venture that has earned him a living, created employment for youths and conserved the environment as well.
Owino established his firm Alisam Products Development and Design in 2006. He makes fabrics from silkworms. Also, the youthful entrepreneur uses fish skin and other waste materials to design leather shoes and collects hair from salons and barber shops to make door mats which he sells locally.
He states that he started the venture as a research scientist and a leather tanner in Kisumu County. Later it turned out that the area had few slaughterhouses to supply him with raw materials like animal hides.
The gap, he says, made him seek an alternative where he settled for fish skin that was abundant in the region.
He started training the unemployed youths in a bid to transfer his skills and offer them an opportunity to earn a living while conserving the environment.
“I have over three hundred women who are doing pre-tanning operations for us. They are registered and we train them separately after which we buy the fish pelt they produce and through this, they are empowered economically,” said Owino.
The project, he said, is currently employing 17 youths who have gained skills and are making the products for sale. The project also takes part in community support by hiring youths who cannot afford fees to work for them and in turn, the organisation pays fees for them from their earnings.
Owino narrated how though time-consuming, the end products usually turn out to be beautiful and bring in capital for the sustainability of the organisation through their sales. He added they initially majored on exportation of these products and afterwards decided to incorporate the local market as well.
“We rear commercial insects such as moths which lay eggs and we incubate these eggs for 7-10 days which hatch to produce silk larvae which take about twenty-six days to spin a cocoon. The cocoon is then boiled and broken into wool,” explained Owino.
He further explained that the wool is dried and taken to the spinning wheel to produce silk thread thereafter it is dyed using plants compounds such as onion peels, avocado, and hibiscus among others. It is then mixed with a mordant to prevent the colour from fading then taken to the weaving loom machine to produce the final material which is commonly known as a ‘Kikoi’.
Besides, Owino explained that they collect fish skins, which they take to the tannery for pre-tanning where they remove scales and flesh in partnership with women who live next to the filleting industries including Obunga slums.
“We use the scales to produce collagen which we use to make shoe glue and take the skin through a tanning process to obtain fish leather to make shoes, sandals, belts, jackets and caps. Through this, we not only earn from it but clean the environment from the wastes that would have polluted the ecosystem,” noted Owino.
The bones, he said, tend to decompose and produce foul smells when disposed off the wrong way and therefore we use each type of bone from the fish to make necklaces.
“Of late we harvest banana fibers which we subject to spinning to make banana thread which we use to make some of the clothes here,” added Owino.
Through our projects, he added, “We hope to keep more youths engaged in these activities in order to prevent them from venturing into dangerous activities like crime and drug abuse that can jeopardize their future.”
By Becky Galyns and Fleiss Akoko