Ketwa, famous for his salt lake and traditionally production (see my last blog) has also an old salt factory. It was build and operated by a German company, but failed cause of wrong material used. It did simply rusted apart due the salt water. The government has new plans, but nothing happen yet. The manager kindly let me in for photos and showed me around, explained me the history and new plans of this factory.
Katwe is a village at northern end of Lake Edward. Along a dusty, bumpy road are some shops and gloomy bars. Most of people living in the houses scattered in the neighborhood or next to the huge lake. At first glimpse just another quite village somewhere in Uganda. But there is something special. Just next to this village, beyond a low crater rim, a small lake appears. At the shore are many ponds in different sizes and colors, mostly dark reddish to almost black. The high quantity of salt makes it worth to collect it. This business grew over generations, and the trade system is still the same. There is no big company who owns the salt, but families taking care for their own plot. A plot usually get inherited to the next generation of the family. Beside the plots, there are also men who walking in the middle of the shallow lake. With iron sticks they break the salty rocks from the ground of the lake and bring it on rafts on land. The salt, crystalline or as rocky plates, get shifted on shore, protected by plastic sheets or covered with dry grass, till they sold and moved by trucks.
One of the manager told us the entire history of that project. While my friend wrote it down, i got briefly the purpose of it. To get the girls from the street, out of drugs and their struggle in life, teach them a profession and help them to find a job. Tailoring is a good way. Just recently another seven girls from the project found a job in a big tailor factory, he told us. The office is occupied by 6 persons, busy at their desks. Colorful fabrics and and finished bags are lying around.
We are led around the building which stands just at edge of a slum. In there upper levels are the rooms for education, a library and the sewing machines. Next to famous brands like Singer stands machines from China. No matter, as long they do their work. Three women were busy and explained how they produce washable sanitary pads. Good idea to produce something reusable, but despite they’re convinced it’s easy to clean them properly, i still doubt it since they use to wash with cold water.
On roof top young women with their children just finished lunch.The kids were playful, posed for photos and some older ones wanted try themselves to take pictures. A couple boys gathered in a corner to play cards. When get down again, a dance class just started in one of the rooms. With the rhythm in our ears we leave the place.
A friend called me, there are need of people joining as statists for filming. There is some money offered, but surely i wanted have a glimpse behind the scene of movie making too. The location was held on Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), an impressive building complex, especially at night. Inside that futuristic looking building is a big conference room, called the Amphitheatre. Rows of empty seats around a red carpeted centre when i get there. Just a few people sitting and standing spread around. No camera or film team in sight. A busy looking lady giving out a form which claims all right on filming on that spot. An amount of money for compensation is promised by that form too. To my surprise i’m told, it’s not a Kenyan production but Hollywood itself shows up, making a science fiction movie. Around 30 people gathered this evening to pretend being members of a parliament or council. Due the delay of the film team, we got coffee and sandwiches first, got fitted in suits and dresses and finally seated in front of the camera, which arrived meanwhile. The next three hours or so, we shifted from row to row, from box to box, from level to level. In the movie, the 30 people of us will appear as around 300 people in the council. Before midnight, the film director was happy with the take. With the welcome cash in my hand and new experience in my head i stepped out in the nightsky.
On travel, there are times of joy ..and there are times of repairs. Happy to see my Land Rover again, but there was quite few things to repair, to improve and to test again. The clutch must be replaced, as the pedal didn’t work properly too. To replace the word battery seemed to be an easy thing, despite the narrow place under the seat, that’s why i also put some switches and wiring in different places. Wondering why the new board battery won’t charge lead to a problem on the controller of the dual-battery-system. We took it out and put a manually switch between the batteries instead. Now the fridge didn’t work anymore. A few coffees later, and after i took some cash in hands, Gabriel could fix my precious fridge. There was more small things to fix, including a photo lens (fixed quick by Nikon Service in Thika Road Mall), but meanwhile i learned to be patient on traffic jam too. There seems only one rule on Nairobi’s streets: no rules! The start of rain season didn’t make it easier to navigate trough the city, especially at night. On the camp of Jungle Junction soaked the terrain to a muddy flat.Just right to test the couple new Maxxis off-road tyres i got here. 🙂
Just out of the city of Nairobi are the Ngong Hills covered with windmills, satellite antennas and communication towers. Can’t cost anything to hike there around, i thought. In the village on the way to the hills were children playing. Some hide shyly, other ones showed up curiously about the stranger passing trough. Just a few adults were around, as curious as the young ones. A father peeks over the fence and ask me to take a photo from him with the kids. Over the village circling the blades of the massive windmills, making a sonorous, deep sound. You get used on it, the villager told me.
Despite the forest is almost gone, replaced by a wide access road and the wind generators, it’s called still a conservation park and a fee is to pay. With Ruth, a new friend and model, i entered the park and hiked around the huge generators. Some women and children followed along a trickling creek. Near the source of it they scooped water into buckets and carried them back to the huts.Three siblings got curious about the white/black couple doing a photo shooting. The youngest got scared, start to cry out loud, but got then overwhelmed by his own curiosity. With the support of the older sister he dared to get closer and play with the cam and the looked at the photos i made of him. At the end we all had a laughter about funny pictures.
We had to talk with the guards, but then they let us to the roof top for a photo shooting. The location was perfect, my model Solita (instagram: @solitacruz) has been once more enthusiastic and the afternoon light just came right.
Not another bottomless project where money just drains down the hole, was in the mind of Iris , the Norwegian founder, but a start to a profitable business with high quality products. Fashionable leather handbags, designed by the founder, are made by hands of six local ladies with best materials available.
Iris and her mother welcome me in the outskirt of Livingstone. I get introduced to the six ladies, who work for the new company. They sit under a shady tree in front of the house when I arrived. On the table are scissors, leather pieces, zips, measuring bands. The electricity still goes trough the neighbour building, but they didn’t pay the bill and the power cut off for both. The team is now improvising, working on steps what can be done by hands only.
Inside the one storey building are cutting and sewing machines, stock on leather and materials and in near future also a display room. They just moved in, I got explained, and some things still have to be improved.
The founder wants not only to provide a workplace for local women, but to create a new brand for the market in Europe, or beyond. It was a long way to teach those ladies and make them understand what is expected on the international market, she explains me, and this development still goes on. There’s no coincidence why the new brand named WayaWaya, what means ‘growing from ground up’.
Nur nicht ein weiteres Hilfsprojekt, in dem Geld in ein bodenloses Loch verschwindet, dachte sich Iris, als sie hier eine neue Firma gründete. Stattdessen soll es ein profitables Geschäft mit hochqualitativen Produkten werden. Moderne Lederhandtaschen, mit eigenem Design und aus bestem Material, das möglichst Lokal besorgt werden kann, ist die Idee dahinter.
Iris und ihre Mutter begrüssen mich ausserhalb von Livingstone und stellen mich den sechs Frauen vor, die momentan für die Firma arbeiten. Sie sitzen unter einem schattigen Baum und arbeiten an den Reissverschlüssen der Handtaschen. Auf dem Tisch liegen Scheren, Lederstücke, Reissverschlüsse, Massbänder. Normalerweise arbeiten sie in dem Haus, in dem die Firma erst vor kurzem eingezogen ist. Doch die Stromleitung läuft noch durch das Nachbarhaus. Wenn diese es versäumen die Rechnung zu bezahlen, wird der Strom für beide Grundstücke abgeschaltet. So wird nun improvisiert und draussen die Produktionsschritte gemacht, die nur von Hand gefertigt werden können.
Der Weg zu einer erfolgreichen Marke ist lang und steinig, weiss die Gründerin. Schon den Arbeiterinnen verständlich zu machen, was der internationale Markt erwartet, nämlich nicht nur funktionale Produkte, sondern auch gute Qualität in Material und hohe Ansprüche im Design, braucht viel Zeit. Nicht umsonst wurde die neue Marke auf den Begriff ‚WayaWaya’ getauft, was soviel bedeutet wie ‚von Grund auf’.