Lamu boat makers are appealing to both the county and national governments to help them access funding that would enable them buy modern tools to boost their trade.
The boat makers are still forced to use ancient tools in their trade which they say is complicated, slow and has made it impossible for them to expand and grow the industry.
The boat-making segment has employed more than 2,000 people in Lamu most of whom have learned the skills through apprenticeship.
Speaking to journalists in Faza on Tuesday, Lamu Boat Makers spokesperson Ahmed Ali called on Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya to come to their aid by ensuring they access funds meant for people in their line of business so that they can expand the industry.
Mr Ali said they were aware that both county and national governments have kitties for trade and industrialisation but added that the lack of information on how to access the funds has made their efforts futile.
The boat makers, however, accused the county and national governments of neglect in ensuring the industry in Lamu and at the Coast region as a whole is expanded.
Mr Ali said it was unfortunate that the government has been focusing all its energy and resources on other sectors while the boat industry has been totally forgotten.
“We’re a forgotten lot and that’s why as boat makers, we’re living in poverty. No one has come out to even give us an opportunity to learn modern boat making skills. At this age and era, we’re still grappling with ancient, complicated and obviously time-consuming skills and tools. This isn’t a time that we’re using ancient version of the chisel, saw, drills, among others. All of the tools we use are handmade and operated too. We need better tools for this job considering the demand is steadily growing,” said Mr Ali.
The boat makers want to be able to access funds to purchase electric tools which are faster and efficient.
Mr Kupi Kale believes that with advanced tools, they will reduce the time spent in making the boats. A normal boat takes between six to twelve months for it to be complete and functional.
“We spend a lot of time to make a single boat and all this is because of the old and outdated tools we’re using. We are responsible for almost 90 percent of all water vessels plyinmg the Lamu Indian Ocean waters. That means boat making is a serious industry that requires serious support. We believe with modern tools in place, we will be able to produce more in a short period and the industry will definitely grow,” said Mr Kale.
Renowned Lamu boat maker Lali Shali said many people had dropped the trade due to the lack of proper infrastructure and support.
Mr Shali feels there needs to be more monetary allocation specifically towards ensuring that the boat making industry is a successful one.
“Some of us are still holding on but it’s extremely tough. Without the funding, the tools and the information, we’re groping in the dark,” said Mr Shali.
Mr Ramadhan Hassan also appealed to the Lamu County government through governor Fahim Twaha to reconsider soliciting for global and ready markets for their boats once they are ready. He said many local buyers have been taking advantage of them and purchasing the finished product at ridiculously low prices.
“As they find ways to enable us access funds, they should also think of soliciting for markets, even if it means outside the country so that our boats can be purchased there once we finish them. We’re really struggling to access outside markets and they make us sell the boats at ridiculously low prices,” said Mr Ramadhan.