Pastoralist women export Sh10m beads to US, Australia

About 900 women from pastoralist communities in northern Kenya have netted Sh10 million from export of home-made bead products to clients in the US and Australia.

The products — earrings, bracelets, rings, key holders and belts — have elicited interest among Europeans who have placed an order for various products yet to be delivered worth Sh5.1 million.

Mike Harrison, chief executive NRT-Trading, an enterprise development programme in northern Kenya, said export of beads has provided marginalised women with stable cash flow to cover daily expenses.

“It is hoped that by diversifying incomes for rural families, this would reduce the pressure and reliance on the environment and wildlife. Using established conservancies as an entry point, NRT Trading began to engage women’s groups in beadwork training, product development and marketing,” he said.

The project was mooted after studies conducted in the northern eastern region showed that empowering women helped to improve livelihoods by enabling children access education, families to enjoy better meals and be able to save for the future.

“Women have been trained on how to account for the funds as well as equipped with leadership skills to enable them run their own self-help groups where they come up with various projects to improve their well-being,” he said.

Mr Harrison said women in communities that have established community-run wildlife conservancies were trained on bead-making with wildlife lovers pledging to buy products in exchange for the women’s commitment to conserve grazing fields for wildlife and livestock.

The training model developed, he said, has since attracted more women groups keen on raising funds via bead-making activities. Several women had also been employed at the packaging facility.