SOAPSTONE INDUSTRY DIVERSIFIED
soapstone industry in the Gucha South sub-county was being diversified to make economic sense to the rhttps://youtu.be/D0eHnOzuChg
The industry has switched to wood carving whose artifacts same to those of the unique soapstone are exported and sold in the country.
But business people engage in the industry vow never to abandon the soapstone resource whose exploitation was estimated metric tones and take hundreds of years before depletion.
The Director of Kisii Soapstone Arts Centre,Daniel Apepo based at Nyabigege along Kisii-Rongo highway disclosed the diversification was prompted by changing customer preferences.
According to Apepo, wo
od carvings were durable,more attractive and easy to produce compared to the soapstone.
Since trees were expensive and took years t mature,caution was being taken to exploit its products sustainably,he added.
Peter Ombasa the company’s production and operations manager revealed 70% of the artifacts were exported with specific products being designed for various markets.
The local markets claimed 40% of the products’ sales.
Export and stone acquisition permits among other regulatory requirements were cited as the challenges facing the industry at the grassroot with the manager petitioning the government for a review.
Currently 120 people directly benefit from the industry estimated to accommodate a total of 800 when in full capacity in future.
Geofrey Orina,a worker says he has perfected his carving skills which he identified from his youthful days that earns him over Ksh. 15,000 per month.
Similar sentiments are expressed by Pamela Atieno who noted that the Covid19 pandemic dealt them a huge blow owing to lack of tourists.
Rispa Rabera,a trainer,challenged women and young girls wasting time in urban centres to take advantage of the industry and learn skills for self advancement.