Blacksmiths forge new skills
by Magdi Hassan, Office Manager, Practical Action Kassala
This article originally appeared in the April 2004 edition of Sharing, Practical Action Sudan's newsletter. It is retained here for reference, but may no longer contain the most recent information.
Blacksmiths in Sudan tend to be a neglected group and are even socially excluded. The work they do is intensive and time-consuming, but of little financial benefit. Their daily income does not exceed SD1000, which is equivalent to $3.8. They mainly make hand tools for use in farming, manufacturing, construction and charcoal production. Blacksmiths rarely own their own premises but work in rented sheds built with corrugated sheets, timber, sacking and grass.
Becoming a blacksmith is a family tradition throughout Sudan. In Kassala Garbelgash, for example, all the blacksmiths come from the same family - the Barno tribe, and are descended from one grandfather, Suliman Abaker. In fact no one can be a blacksmith unless he is from a family of blacksmiths. In such a traditional profession, the skills and practices of the blacksmiths have a long history. However, Practical Action found that there was room for improvement through technology and training that can improve the blacksmiths' output and increase their market potential.
Practical Action always ensures that training sessions produce practical tools through hands-on learning. The main areas of capacity building for blacksmiths are enhancing knowl- edge to select appropriate materials, treating metals and finishing techniques. This 'icing on the cake' allows the blacksmiths to compete, not only in their local market but also with imported tools. Local farmers were invited to the training sessions to assess the tools and give their opinions on the designs, strengths and weaknesses, helping the black-smiths tailor their tools for the marketplace.
The objectives of the training programme were:
- Improving the quality of blacksmiths products by increasing skills
- Diversifying the range of products made by the blacksmiths
- Facilitating access to markets by responding to tenders for tools
After the first training in Kassala and according to the monitoring we observed the following impacts:
Social: The blacksmiths in Kassala are working as one group, especially to produce large quantities of supplies for NGOs.
Physical: The blacksmiths in Kassala as a society lobbied the government and gained a piece of land for each to build his workshop. Some have now built concrete workshops and houses.
Human: One of the participants gained enough experience to train others. He is now working as a consultant for the Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN.
Financial: All the blacksmiths in Kassala have raised their income by producing new goods and by improving the quality of their products.
|A blacksmith at work in his forge||Animal-drawn plough: a new design has increased incomes by 38%|
- Read more about our manufacturing projects in Eastern Sudan
- Building the local capacity for the manufacturing of agricultural tools In North Darfur
This article appeared in issue six of Sharing, Practical Action Sudan's newsletter, which looks at how Practical Action is working to achieve its aims of reducing vulnerability and making markets work for the poor.