Assesement of the impact of handcraft industry on the environment: a study of Wamunyu and Gatangi locations, Mwala district, Kenya
Mutinda, Wanza Jane
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The study was on woodcarving and basket weaving handicrafts among the Kamba community in Wamunyu and Katangi locations of Mwala District of former Machakos District in Kenya. It examined the extent to which the two practices have impacted on the raw materials used in the production of the respective crafts. A total of 200 craftspeople (100 woodcarvers and 100 basket weavers) participated in the survey. These were purposively sampled for the reason that in each location, the target respondents were organised into a major association. In Wamunyu the major association is Wamunyu Cooperative Society, whereas in Katangi it is the Yatta South Women Group. Other study respondents included cooperative officials and, programme managers of local non-governmental organisations. Questionnaires, in-depth interview guides, focus group discussions, observation and photography were used in collecting data which revealed certain significant aspects of the respective handicrafts. Wood carving is a major informal industry in Wamunyu. It is a source of livelihood for many families. However, it has been practiced to the detriment of the environment. Witnessed is a complete disappearance of some indigenous trees originally used in the industry due to inactive foresight in replenishing the resource base. Most carvers are blind to environmental concern but monetary gain. In comparison, basket weaving has had a relatively modest impact on the environment. Its resource base is sisal. Revealed as well, resident NGOs have very little to do with the handicraft industries despite the significance of the crafts as major income earners. Admittedly, the findings suggest a need for both woodcarvers and basket weavers to carryout their trade in a sustainable way especially that most local tree species and sisal are near depletion. Required are afforestation and reforestation programmes and, as relates to leftovers from the respective crafts, adaptation of good waste management practices. For example, use of cut-offs in carving smaller items and making of compost manure rather than setting ablaze the resultant leftovers. The cooperative societies should be in the forefront of ensuring that sustainable wood carving and basket weaving is done. There is need for urgent extensive mobilisation of all stakeholders to start nurseries and plantations with the sole purpose to grow raw materials for use by the respective crafts. Hence conservation education would come in handy in promoting sustainable woodcarving and basket weaving. Suggested as well is a need for resident non-governmental organisations to expand their activities and train and empower the woodcarvers and basket weavers in aspects such as resource conservation, water harvesting techniques and, diversification of income generating activities.