(ERGO) – A team of young women and men living in Dadaab town in northeastern Kenya have set up a brick-making business that has started to take off. Having struggled to earn a living, and coming from pastoralist backgrounds, they are now supporting their families and dreaming of expanding the business.
Zamzam Abdullahi Sugo, 22, enrolled in a brick and masonry training programme provided by an NGO, Peace Winds Japan. There were 100 trainees on the course. On completion, she and 11 other trainees, among them six women, established the brick production plant in January.
According to Zamzam, the group raised $1,020 to buy the machine and tools they needed. The local administration in Dadaab provided them with a piece of land to set up the plant.
Since she started the job, the life of her family who lost all their livestock in 2014 has improved. She earns 20,000 Kenya shillings a month ($200) which she uses to cover the food and other needs of her family.
“We lost our last donkey in December; my elder brother used to ride to collect firewood to sell at the market to support our family. After we lost the donkey, I decided to join the training and work. Now the situation of my family is stable,” Zamzam said.
Another worker is Halimo Abdi Garane, 21, whose family arrived in Dadaab four years ago after losing all their livestock in the drought.
Like Zamzam, Halima is the sole bread winner in her family. She says when she started the job, people were gossiping about her as she had joined a male-dominated line of work.
But Halima believes that she can do what men can do, adding that hard work pays well.
“Now I am comfortable that I earn money which I can use to support my family. As long as you are healthy, you should try to harvest from your sweat! I am happy that I do not wait for hand-outs,” she said.
She called on girls to make use of their energy to become independent.
Abdishukri Hirey Yussuf, also a member of the youth group, says the business is improving as the demand for their products has shot up.
“Our average sales each month are 150,000 Kenya shillings ($1,500). We sell one block for five shillings ($0.05) which is very cheap compared to those imported from Thika town which cost around 50 shillings (0.5),” said Abdishakur, who used to operate a donkey cart.
He hopes the business can expand in the region.
“This is a valuable opportunity for both the local community and the youth; the product is made locally and we also offer free delivery of goods. We are planning to buy portable brick manufacturing machines to make our work easier,” he said.