Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Made In Mahandakini

Sara, our former expedition volunteer, intern and now field staff member heading up our Tsavo West sustainable development programme updates us on developments at Mahandakini:

When I came to Africa a year and half ago I never thought I would be teaching women here how to hand weave using sisal, a natural fibre that grows here. But then again I wouldn't have imagined having the opportunity to build relationships with communities in the way I have. If I was to go to any other villages and tell the women I was going to teach them how to weave using sisal I have no doubt that they would laugh at me; a young 'mzungu' (white person) woman knowing how to weave let alone able to teach them something about it they didn't already know!

I first visited Mahandakini a year ago and have been back many times since. The welcoming nature of the people in this village has allowed me to stay in their homes, eat meals with them and play games with their children. With the relationships I have established I feel just as at home in Mahandakini as I would back home in Australia. This is important not just for me but for the community, building something rare - their trust. and that is the reason I was able to spend a week teaching the women in Mahandakini new weaving techniques to make handles for the bags that they have been weaving over many generations past.

With our keen group of volunteers, we spent a number of days seated on the ground with the women, tangled in sisal twine, giving practical training on different ways to weave sisal and produce attractive handles for the all-natural bags that they produce. Our aim is to enable them to add the 'finish' that will catch the tourists' eyes and so add value to their products - this is key to successful sustainable development, finding markets for the skills that they already possess.

We taught them three new weaving techniques alongside making labels for the bags using recycled elephant dung paper. By the end of the week a number of bags were completed with handles and labels produced by the women of Mahandakini, which I can now take with me in search of potential new markets for the women. Importantly the success of the week would not have been possible without the trust of the people of Mahandakini in both me and the volunteers they were meeting for the first time. A big thank you to everyone and congratulations to the women of Mahandakini!



Sara Mayer said...

those bags look awesome! the crafst(wo)manship of the bags themselves is impressive, and the handles will make them stick out in the eyes of potential buyers! i'd be happy to snag a few for friends back home when they hit the market! congrats to all involved.