Recycled Handicrafts

  • Finding employment is hard in Kisumu and wages are low. The tourist market has all but disappeared in recent years, leaving those who made a living in the past from the trade in serious difficulty. Zigira is trying to overcome development problems within the community of Kisumu by focusing on the environmental challenges of the region and providing much needed employment to talented artisans who struggle to find alternative employment. Our project aims to use solely recycled materials or materials from natural sustainable resources. By creating arts and crafts in this way we are minimising the damage to the environment and reducing the destruction of natural resources. Kenya is a stunningly beautiful country and we hope that by teaching people about the importance of caring for the environment we can help a community develop without a cost to the environment.

    There are no waste disposal services in Kisumu. All rubbish is swept into piles and burnt each day releasing toxic gases into the air. At present there are little or no recycling centres in Kisumu. Waste disposal is a serious problem creating huge rubbish dumps and impacting adversely on the community’s health. Kenya does not have the resources of infrastructure to deal with waste products on this scale.

    Waste disposal in Kisumu
      • Recycled Materials
        Our products are created using recycled materials from four primary sources.
      • Plastic:
        Plastic bags are the most noticeable waste problem throughout Kenya. An estimated 4,000 tonnes of plastic bags are produced each month mainly for shopping purposes. Many bags are discarded after one use and cause a huge eyesore in both urban and countryside areas. Plastic bags also block gutters and drains, choke farm animals and marine wildlife and pollute the soil as they gradually break down. We regularly collect as many plastic bags as we can use from the streets and countryside of Kisumu, clean and organise them, then re-use them to weave strong durable products such as bags. Examples of all out products can be found here.


      • Water Hyacinth:
        Kisumu has a specific problem in relation to water hyacinth. Kisumu is situated on the banks of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria. The lake is the source of livelihood for the majority of people in Kisumu in the form of water supply, but also provides employment for many in terms of fisheries and trade across the lake to neighbouring Uganda. Water Hyacinth is a highly invasive native South American plant which was introduced to the lake. It has rapidly spread across the edges of the lake, choking native species, trapping waste and environmental hazards from factories which are disposed of into the lake on the shoreline, and thus into the part of the lake people use for drinking and bathing.
        The spread of this plant grew to such a point that in 1997 water hyacinth blocked the Kisumu ferry terminal to the extent that boats could not escape or enter the port due to the barrier of water hyacinth. This species needs constant management and attention to stop the detrimental affect on the people of Kisumu. We aim to help to deal with this issue by regularly removing water hyacinth from the lake, and using the material to form products which can be of use to the local population in the form of furniture and sold to generate income for our community.
    • Water Hyacinth in Lake Victoria
      This image shows a ferry within the masses of water hyacinth spreading across the lake. Below is a close up of the density of hyacinth.


  • Paper: 
    We buy used paper from local businesses in Kisumu, encouraging other organisations to realise both the financial and environmental benefits of recycling in the community.
    • Metals:
      We also gather scrap material from local factories which would otherwise be disposed of, using this to create tin and wire handicraft products.
    • Our Work
    • Creating Handicrafts:
      Zingira African heritage attempts to use unwanted materials to create handicrafts, thereby helping to create employment and conserve the environment. Income from products helps the local people to have a better standard of living allowing them better shelter, food, electricity, clothing, school fees, health insurance and more.
      We employ local artisans to make handcrafted gifts and products from locally sourced materials, which we distribute and sell to a wider and more lucrative market beyond Kisumu, using the income to pay a daily wage to our artisans.
      All profits generated from the sale of these crafts are used to sustain and expand the market base and to train more artisans. This enables people to have a secure job and create further employment for the local community. As we train more people we also teach the importance of recycling and caring for our own environment.Zingira aims to enable people to have a better income and have power over their own lives. We currently provide income and employment to around 20 members. At present we make little or no profit, but as the project develops we aim to provide financial assistance towards local projects such as well-building and providing much needed resources to local schools.Here is an example of how we create our handicrafts – in this instance creating tin products from waste sheet metal.
      The majority of our tin products are created from waste tin from a local drinks bottling plant. We buy sheets of tin designed to become bottle tops which have been misprinted and deemed unsuitable for use. These sheets would otherwise most likely be dumped or discarded. Most of the misprinted tin we use is either Tusker beer or Coca Cola prints.
      These pictures show Richard Omollo, head of our tin making department demonstrating how we make our handicrafts from the waste tin sheets.

      From left to right – top to bottom


      1. Richard takes the sheet of misprinted tin and cuts it using a knife
      2. The shape of the tin is cut from the sheet
      3. The rectangle of tin is curved around a piece of pipework
      4. Here is the completed tube – the edges are then joined together
      5. A circle is cut to make the bottom of the tin
      6. The bottom is applied to the tin
      7. A ring of tin is created for the lid
      8. Another wider circle is cut to attach to the ring mage in the previous picture. This will make the lid of the small tin

      Here is the completed tin ready for painting, shown alongside Richard displaying a suitcase made from the same material, and an example of painted containers to the right

    • Training:
      Zingira trains local people who want to get involved and develop their talents.
      We offer apprenticeships to any local people who wish to pursue a career in sustainable arts and crafts using recycled materials. If you are interested in participating in the project or wish to undertake training in the creation of recycled handicrafts, please contact Evance for further details.
      On request we travel to rural communities within Nyanza province to share our expertise about recycling and creating an income from the resources surrounding us. This enables more isolated communities to have access to the market. On these days we demonstrate skills like creating paper out of natural materials such as water hyacinth and banana fibre.Here are some photos from our recent training session in Wanawake, where we were teaching how to make strong durable handbags from waste plastic carrier bags. This session was taught by Lucy Okudo Ramadhan (The head of our weaving department), and was demonstrated to Eunice Atieno, Amina Ibrahim, and Jamila Ibrahim. All are single parents and were previously unemployed, but using the skills we have passed on they now are the bread winners of their homes.
  • From left to right, top to bottom

    1. Waste plastic bags are collected, washed thoroughly, and then sorted into colour groups.
    2. Lucy demonstrated how to divide the bags into strips
    3. The strips are then woven together to make rope. Here you can see Jamilla holding the rope with her feet and weaving it together
    4. The ropes are then woven again around a wooden frame to create the shape of our handbags
    5. Eunice starts to weave around the frame
    6. The bag is removed from the frame and the finishing touches are added.If your community is interested in this project and wishes to organise a training day from Zingira Nyanza, again, please get in contact with Evance.