Yesterday, the 16th of April, I happened to go to Taveta, a border town near Tanzania. I had gone for the purpose of getting sisal for the women. Though I am happy that the number of baskets being ordered from the women has increased, it has caused another issue; sisal supply. The local sisal has run out, and the nearby source of sisal, Buguta, has reduced to a point that the sisal sellers have increased the sisal price: supply and demand dynamics. With the help of Cheryl Kirby-Stokes, we had agreed with the women that they plant the sisal along the fence of the local primary schools to supplement the sisal demands in the future. Well, the future has caught up sooner than we expected, and now I’m in Taveta.
I happened to stay with one of the daughters of the basket weavers in Makwasinyi, and I was able to use that as a base to go scout for cheap sisal sources. I also happened to go scouting for specific raw materials used to make reed baskets, and the only other source was way north in Lodwar. The hope was to reduce the travelling expense of going all the way to Lodwar. The very reeds Bee needed were being exported out to Tanzania. They did use some of the reed material to make baskets, but they were doing it as a past time, and not in a way that would empower them economically. One of the ladies I was discussing the reed baskets with said they needed something to keep them busy, to empower them economically, for despite her husband working at the sisal plantation, it was obvious they were in need of more financial help. We agreed they make the designs once I sent them the pictures of the kind of baskets Bee needed. The highlight of my visit, however, was my stay with the daughter of one of the basket weavers. She was asking how I do my work with the women and how it all begun. In the midst of our discussion, she said, “You are doing something wonderful for our mothers. Now, at the very least, they don’t depend on us to send them money. Robert, you know we have responsibilities of our own. Now, with what you are doing, we are becoming more free to build our own families.” It never hit me how much influence the baskets are having on not just the women in Kasigau, but to their sons and daughters who do not live within Kasigau. Traditionally, though not obligated, the children do support their parents, financially or however means the parent might be in need of. When she said how much relief she gets from actually helping her mother, I wondered how many other women’s children are relieved of such financial obligations from their parents by the very basket you buy in London, the States, Canada and hopefully, Australia.
The chain effect is long, longer than I, and most probably you, ever thought of. I was tired yesterday, dog tired. However, the knowledge that I am doing more than I initially anticipated was worth all the fatigue and pain of travelling 3 hours standing on a bus with a swollen foot caused by two bee stings. It is worth having to figure out how the four large bails of sisal will be transported to Kasigau, despite the government’s directive of no luggage on matatu roofs. We are doing more than we initially anticipated. It might not seem much, but in essence, by buying a Kasigau basket, you are helping a family allocate more money to family development, money that may have been sent back to the women in Kasigau. We are doing something good for countless families not only in Kasigau, but pretty much all over Kenya.