Sh1bn Tannery: Narok leather factory puts the best foot forward

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 23 Jul, 2019 00:00 | 3 mins read
A staff member at the Narok Tannery and Leather Factory shows one of the machines work. Photo/COURTESY
Peter Leshan @PeopleDailyKe   

The more than Sh1 billion Tannery and Leather Factory in Narok county constructed by Ewaso Nyiro South Developed Authority (ENSDA) is now in operation.

It opened its doors last month after four years of construction. Seleila Mwanik, the chairman of the authority says it has so far processed 700 kilogrammes of leather for export.

The project, funded by the government through the authority that has jurisdiction in five counties, will directly benefit pastoral communities in the region. Mwanik says the factory will process over 4,000 tonnes of hides and skins annually for export, anticipating to earn Sh180 million in the same period. 

“This is the largest leather factory in Kenya and it will be a game-changer for local livelihoods,” he says.

Samuel Napolos, the authority’s managing director said the construction of the three-phase project is now complete, adding that full operations start this month.

“The first phase involved the construction of the factory on one acre. Phase two was the construction of sewerage and a water purification plant while the final stage was shipping in equipment from abroad,” he said.

A cow skin, he said, currently fetches Sh150 in the local market while that of a goat or sheep is sold at Sh50. ENSDA is offering livestock keepers Sh1,000 for cow skins and Sh500 for sheep or goatskins respectively. Livestock farmers from regions neighbouring Narok will also be supplying animal skins to the tannery.

Napolos said the factory will partner with Leather Development Council, Kenya Investment Authority, Export Processing Zone and Ethiopia. The factory will create 300 jobs directly,  5, 000 indirectly and help create wealth for local communities. “It will boost the regional economy that also depends on wheat, barley and maize farming and tourism,” said Napolos.

Livestock Department officials say Narok county has a population of 1.2 million beef cattle, 300,000 dairy cows, 1.6 million sheep and 880,000 goats. Ewaso Nyiro area has the largest number of livestock in northern Masai Mara and the largest cattle market in Narok but lacks the proper infrastructure to support the livestock industry. 

Livestock farmers

County Livestock Director David Mpilei says about 100,000 livestock are slaughtered in the county annually, earning farmers more than Sh1.5 billion from sheep, goats and cattle.

 However, the low price for skins at Sh50 per kilo last year frustrated farmers.  “Farmers earned Sh74.3 million from the sale of over 1,485 tonnes of hides and skins last year, an increase from 2017 where they earned Sh62.8 million from the sale of 1,256 tonnes,” he said. 

The livestock sector in Kenya employs 50 per cent of the agricultural labour force, according to the National Statistics Bureau. The sector contributes 12 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or 40 per cent of the agricultural GDP sector. 

Manufacturing is one of the four pillars the government is pursuing economic growth. In the leather industry, the State targets to produce over 20 million pairs of shoes by 2022 and to boost export revenues in the sector to Sh50 billion in the next five years.

Despite Kenya being the third-largest cattle herd in Africa, the country buys 30 million pairs of shoes a year. The ENSDA boss said the factory would be among the few in the country that processes leather to the final product. “We have already shipped in 22 state-of-the-art equipment from China,” said Leporos.

The factory has an effective Effluent Treatment Plant, which uses reverse osmosis thus being environment-friendly. He asked women and youths to form cooperative societies to supply skin and hides to the factory to boost their incomes and to stop exploitation by middlemen.

Speaking while he led the county implementation committee on a tour of the factory recently, Narok County Commissioner (CC), George Natembeya said phase one of the project that involved construction and installation of a crucial machine to the tune of Sh900 million was completed and operational.

“We are pleased with the work we have seen here. Unlike many other government projects that are allocated a lot of money, but do not see the light of the day, this project is successful and when complete will add value to the pastoralists’ community,” he said.

The CC was accompanied by the Director of ICT who is also President’s Delivery Unit Director, Khadija Mohammed, South Rift Resident Engineer, Stephen Musindayi, Narok Director of National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) Patrick Lekenit and other members and County Security committee.

Natembeya said the factory will improve living standards of the local people, as they will now be able to sell hides and skins from their livestock in a ready market.

Speaking during the visit, ENSDA Chief Manager in charge of Planning, Peter Bwogero said phase two of the project that will cost Sh500 million will entail sensitizing and building the capacity of the residents to make goods out of the finished leather products.

“We want to build a training ground where we can train the locals on how to make goods such as shoes, handbags, beddings and furniture. This will empower them economically instead of exporting all the leather,” said Bwogero.

He said 75 per cent of the water used in the tannery is recycled making the entity environmental friendly. “The recycled water is used back in the factory. Some of it is purified and taken as freshwater by the factory staff and locals,” said Bwogero. 

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