Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Kiwi finds crafty way to help tribes

Non-profit organisation aids Kenyan craftspeople to profit from their work, and feature work in stores in New Zealand.

New Zealander Chris Delaney in Kenya at a workshop with Maasai participants who make handicrafts for sale around the country and overseas. Photo / Jake Lyell
New Zealander Chris Delaney in Kenya at a workshop with Maasai participants who make handicrafts for sale around the country and overseas. Photo / Jake Lyell

A Kiwi woman is helping a small Kenyan community transform some of its dying crafts into a lucrative moneymaker.

Wellington-based Chris Delaney has been working with non-profit organisation ChildFund to assist the Emali community to diversify its income streams away from livestock and crops by identifying some of the best crafts and selling them to tourists.

Within six months of the project starting, some of the items are in big demand and are being sold in high-end retail stores in Kenya, as well as being stocked by a New Zealand retail chain.

All the proceeds from sale of the crafts go directly back into the community.

Ms Delaney met 80 craftspeople from four community groups in October last year and helped develop a craft inventory, ranging from beaded jewellery to wooden containers.

About 30 products were selected and underwent strict quality control before being branded under the newly created MaKa Emali label, which is named after the two tribal groups involved - Kamba and Maasai.

Before Ms Delaney's involvement, the crafts were being made for use within the community and some were obsolete because the introduction of plastic had eliminated the need for a number of the wooden products such as honey containers and beer kegs.

She said the crafts were amazing in their own right and the community simply needed help with the marketing and branding of the products so they were attractive to stockists and could be sold at a premium price.

Ms Delaney, who has been involved with helping communities make the most of their crafts for 20 years, said the buyer at the luxury Serena Hotel chain in Kenya had been "knocked out" when the products were first presented to her and had ordered $2000 of stock immediately. The National Museum gift shop also sold the items.

She said the main focus was the local Kenyan market as it was more sustainable long-term.

"The tourist market is really important," she said. "Most of those Maasai products won't be of interest to overseas people unless they are collectors. It's only a limited number of things that would work over here [in New Zealand]."

However, last month gift retailer Iko Iko, which has two stores in Wellington and one in Auckland, placed the first international order for wooden baskets and some beaded jewellery which Ms Delaney said would be a good trial for the brand overseas.

ChildFund programme director Shona Jennings said developing non-farming income streams for the community was one of three areas the charity was working on. It was also assisting the community to improve the nutritional value of their food and looking at how they could better protect livestock from drought by drilling boreholes and creating dams.

Ms Jennings said the Emali community had identified their crafts as an opportunity to develop before ChildFund became involved.

- NZ Herald

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