Empowering people with an environmental approach: Zingira Nyanza

How to turn a one-man-business into a community project

Zingira Nyanza, a community based organisation situated in Kisumu, Western Kenya, coordinates the efforts of local artisans to produce a range of handicraft products made from recycled and locally sourced materials.

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All images were kindly provided by Evance/Zingira Nyanza, please contact info@zingira.org if you wish to use any of them.

Initial situation: A community located in an area with high unemployment, environmental pollution, and an invasive plant species (in this case hyacinth) challenging local fisheries and ecosystems.

Below is the outline of how Evance came to his one-man-business which he eventually turned into a successful and thriving community project:

  1. Evance Odhiambo - founder of Zingira Nyanza

    A young man with the dream of studying computer engineering, but he doesn’t have enough money to pay the college fees

  2. He takes the job as a gardener and later additionally starts his own paper recycling business producing cards to increase savings
  3. Orders rise, so he invests into new equipment to boost productivity, the paper business turns into a full-time job
  4. His mother’s story of gender inequality in the past, which didn’t allow her to go to school, make her own living and pay his school fees, affects him such that he starts training young women to lift them out of poverty and dependance
  5. To increase revenue to the paper business and by learning from his clients he starts using scrap materials to decorate the cards himself
  6. Extensive youth training and exchange of ideas generates new projects, such as hyacinth weaving, recycled polythene bags and craft production
  7. Collaborations with local orphanages and rehabilitation centers extend the benefits for everyone involved
Today, Evance Odhiambo works together with about twenty other members of the organisation, each of whom is specialising in specific craft areas. Read the full history of Zangira Nyanza.
The work of Zangira Nyanza is inclusive of all tribes, both genders and with people from 18 years upwards.

Turning waste into value

Since Kenyan administrations currently still do not have the capacities (infrastructure or recycling centres) to deal with, accumulating waste is often simply burned which poses health damages to both the local people and the environment. Another challenge is the high unemployment rate in the area partly due to a recent decline in tourism. Zingira Nyanza is addressing both these challenges by offering skills and employment to locals in order to generate new products from scrap materials and natural resources in a holistic and sustainable manner.

recycled plastic bag

Plastic is the most visible waste on the streets, in urban and rural areas and on dumping sites. Threats are for example blocking gutters and drains, choking wild and domestic animals and if burned releasing toxic gas. Zangira Nyanza staff collect disposed plastic bags to clean and weave them into new durable bags.

Zangira Nyanza also buys paper and metals from local factories and businesses, both of which would otherwise be disposed.

collecting hyacinth

Water Hyacinth is an invasive species in Kenya, native to South America. It displaces local plant species and puts serious threats to the environment and fishing industry around Lake Victoria. Zangira Nyanza uses both hyacinth pulp and fibre for paper recycling and basket weaving among others.

Zingira Nyanza products include

  • Recycled paper cards made of banana fibres with recycled paper, wire and tin
  • Recycled paper necklaces
  • Recycled tin bookmarks, containers, briefcases and decorations
  • Rag dolls made from discarded off-cut materials and clothing
  • Handcrafted wire mobiles, earrings, bicycles and cars
  • Handwoven hyacyinth bags, placemats and furnitures
  • Recycled plastic bags

Check all product details with images online.

For purchase, orders, trade enquiries of the products and also if you wish to book training sessions from Zingira Nyanza in the region contact Evance at info@zingira.org

For more information visit www.zingira.org

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