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Weaving Magic: Camel milking baskets, Kenya.


Selling baskets made by pastoralists is giving women an income for the first time. The women of Ngurunit in Kenya have entered the cash economy. They are earning an income of 50,000 Kenyan Shillings (about US $500) from selling traditional baskets. It’s a veritable fortune in this arid part of northern Kenya. Before they sold baskets, the women
of this pastoralist society comprising Rendille and Samburu tribes were dependent on their livestock. Change came when Laura Lemunyte, from Wisconsin moved to Ngurunit after marrying a Rendille herdsman. A destitute woman asked Laura if she could sell her camel milking basket to buy food. Certain the attractive baskets could bring income to the village, Laura convinced several Nairobi shops to stock them. The baskets proved popular with tourists and soon orders were placed by importers. Today nearly 200 women in Ngurunit spend every spare moment weaving baskets. Laura believes that with better access to markets, the baskets will continue to fund lasting improvements to the quality of life of the entire community. Already the basket making has proved a catalyst for other income-generating ventures such as honey, leather and ghee production.
Newsweek, August 29, 2005


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