The contrast of graceful women clad in brightly colored cloth trekking across arid landscapes has become synonymous with large parts of the African continent. In Kenya, women dressed in kanga cloth fill markets, buses, roads and villages with endless array of color. Whilst walking through dusty Taveta market with a basket of fruit and vegetables on my head, it dawned on me that despite the beauty and popularity of kangas very few people in Kenya use kangas for anything other than women’s clothing. However, with the help of GVI an ex-poaching community on the border of Tsavo West is now using kanga cloth to make jewellery for local and tourist markets.
Earlier this month, GVI staff and volunteers spent a week working in the village of Mahandakini teaching ex-poachers how to make beads from kanga cloth. The community members from Mahandakini were thoroughly impressed with the lessons and were very keen to incorporate the beads into their existing jewellery manufacturing industry. The results were amazing with beautiful new designs for earrings being developed by GVI and the villagers from Mahandakini. These earrings will subsequently be sold in tourist lodges throughout Kenya and in local markets and thus support the continued development of alternative livelihood industries in Mahandakini. The women of Mahandakini will certainly never look at their kangas as just an item of clothing again!