Small Scale Wood Carving Enterprises and their Contribution to Rural Livelihoods in Wamunyu, Machakos County, Kenya
Muthini, Shedrack Mwendwa
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At a time of rising food insecurity and high rates of poverty as a result of drought, rural communities have to find alternative means of livelihoods apart from crop and livestock agriculture which are susceptible to drought. Woodcarving is one of the sole most important alternative forms of livelihood in the rural areas. Despite documented potential benefits of high value markets and value addition, wood carved products are majorly produced and marketed locally with or no value addition. This study therefore sought to evaluate small scale wood carving enterprises as an alternative source of livelihood and their contribution to rural livelihoods with focus in Wamunyu Location, Machakos County, Kenya. The study was designed to assess woodcarving practices in Wamunyu location, examine the contribution of woodcarving to the socio-economic welfare of the woodcarvers in Wamunyu location and finally, suggest measures that can be put in place to improve the woodcarving sector in Wamunyu location. The study aimed at providing additional information which would be of importance to the relevant stakeholders in mainstreaming woodcarving as an alternative source livelihood in policy formulation, strategies and development programmes. The study used the case study design. Primary data was collected using questionnaires, interview schedules, photography and observation guides. Secondary data was obtained through reviewing previous research work related to woodcarving. Qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques were used due to the nature of the data collected. Quantitative data was presented by use of pie charts, tables and figures. Qualitative data was organised into themes and presented through discussions and narratives. The findings showed that, despite large number of woodcarvers willing to adopt modern woodcarving technologies, traditional woodcarving remained to be more rampant due to lack of capital to purchase modern woodcarving machines and lack of skills to operate them. The findings also indicated that only small proportion of the woodcarvers did full value addition to their sculptures. Majority of the woodcarvers embarked on partial value addition while a small proportion never added value to their sculptures. They noted lack of capital to hire labour, lack of market for the finished sculptures and value addition being a tiresome and time consuming activity as the main reasons they never added value to their products. Consequently, they received low value for their investment. Additionally, the findings indicated that despite woodcarving positive contribution to the rural livelihoods through provision of income, employment creation, preservation of culture and tradition and promotion of tourism sector the industry faced a lot of challenges. These challenges included; lack of sufficient market, lack of enough and good quality wood, lack of sufficient finances, lack of machinery, lack of collaboration with the forestry department, lack of support by the government and poor working environment for the carvers. Future interventions such as establishment of national woodcarving strategy, developing market information systems, reformulation of tourism, forestry and culture policies to recognise woodcarving as a source of livelihood and allowing woodcarvers to have access to some hardwood tree species through the forestry department are some of the measures the county and national government should put in place to improve the woodcarving industry in Kenya.