Peter Onyango, Jua Kali Worker — Kenya
On the edge of Lake Victoria in the Migori District of Nyanza Province, Kenya, live about two thousand very enterprising people who are working their way out of poverty.
From his small workshop Peter makes good quality, inexpensive tools and equipment, very often from scrap metal and using limited resources, that he then sells to the local community. This is the story of how Peter became a jua kali worker to support himself.
In 1998 Peter lost his job with a steel structure investment company and moved to Migori to look for opportunities to make a living on his own. Despite not having enough money to set up a workshop and only owning a hand-held grinder, Peter managed to do enough jobs not only to support himself for eight months, but also to save enough to open his own workshop.
He was able to achieve this thanks to the help he received from The Tool Hire and Information Centre opened in Migori as part of ITDGPractical Action's Manufacturing Programme in Kenya.
ITDGPractical Action in Kenya were looking for ways to increase employment and income-generation opportunities, especially for small scale producers, to help sustain the local economy. The Tool Hire and Information Centre proved to be the answer.
For Peter, and many people like him, the reality of working for yourself in a developing country like Kenya presents many problems. The initial investment in tools and materials is prohibitively high, and sustaining a reasonable income is difficult.
The tool hire centre provided a starting point from which Peter could earn money and build up his customer base without a large capital outlay by allowing him to hire the tools he needed to make his products.
The Centre also supports jua kali workers in other relevant ways. The Tool Hire Centre runs training programmes and workshops for jua kali workers to help with new product development, and with simple costing and pricing procedures. They also teach jua kali workers about production processes that could make their work easier and increase capacity.
Such skills development has a positive knock-on effect with local economies, as Peter's story shows. He now has his own workshop where he makes jembes (hoes) from old tractor discs and tower bolts for locking doors.
He says, "I will soon have my own shears [for drilling holes], which will save me money, since I will no longer have to hire the ones at the centre. I will also be able to do shearing jobs for other jua kalis; anyone who wants his own shears can come to me and I will make him one like mine."