Her Crafts Take Kids to School

Annah Kyomukama is one of our partners at Lake Bunyonyi and an example of a strong woman. A widow and a mother of 10, she has built a future for her children with the dexterity of her hardworking hands.

How did you start making crafts?

When I was 12 years old, I started to learn about crafts from my mother. She showed me how to make simple ones like baskets for home use. I always liked it, and when I came home from school, I would immediately begin working on my crafts. I was always trying to make new designs and find better materials.

In 2006, when Edirisa began teaching women how to produce and improve their crafts, I gained the skills on how to sell them as well. We learned how to make different designs by using different colors and patterns. The project was started by Pamela Kanyunyuzi who would buy crafts for her personal use. The woman who sold her the crafts told me about it. So I went to Pamela and asked her which kind of crafts she was looking for and joined the project. She took pictures of crafts she found interesting and showed them to us. We studied how to make them and how to get the same materials.

During the project we opened different shops in Uganda: at our lake, in Kabale and in Fort Portal. I became a major person behind this project coordinating other women from different areas.

What are your main projects at the moment?

Now I am working with the Gorilla Highlands Initiative and teach travellers how to make a simple craft like a bracelet. It gives them the chance to visit a local home on the hills around the beautiful lake. They can also indulge in a homemade lunch, with sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, beans, posho, and groundnut sauce. And they have a chance to buy some of my crafts. Most of them do which makes me really happy. From there they resume their hiking tour, but not before they enjoy the beautiful viewpoint next to my house that offers the best view over the lake. Aside from this, I am also selling some crafts to local shops.

What does your working day look like? 

My working hours depend on the orders and my tasks. Before, when it was the high tourism season, I would work on my crafts from 7am to 6pm, with one hour for lunch break. On those days I would sell my crafts four days every week. Now, sadly, because of Covid, it has been a low season for way too long and months have passed without selling anything.

The money I receive from selling crafts is not enough, so I also go to work in the field, planting vegetables, to produce food for my family. I would need a lot more purchasers to have enough income for me and my family. And that is hard because the market is limited.

How many crafts do you make in a day?

Depends on which crafts I am working on. If I work on simple ones, I can make about 20 a day. If it is a basket, it takes several  days, depending on the size. A small basket takes me two days, a medium one four days, and a big one a week.

Where do you get materials from?

I collect some papyrus from the lake, and I can buy two colours in Kabale. Other materials, for example raffia grass and the different colors that I need to get from Kampala, are sent by my son.

Which crafts do you like to produce? Do you have a bestselling product?

Most clients like table mats, earrings, and baskets. I love to work on earrings because they are fast and easy to make. Producing baskets is exhausting, but good for selling. Once a man bought five baskets and his brother wanted to have the same five baskets, thus I had to work on that order for many days. So far I have only received positive feedback from my clients.

Are you setting the prices for your products?

I am the one who buys the material and puts the effort in, so I am also setting the prices for my products. If someone wants to buy more, but can’t afford them, I try to make a good price. In general, I try to be fair so everyone can buy from me.

Do you teach other people in your community?

Yes I do. I am teaching my children, except for the one who doesn’t have the patience for it, they are all learning crafts. I am also teaching other women so they are getting the chance to sell crafts.

Do you have collaborations with other partners? How do you market your crafts?

I would love to cooperate with other people, but I am spending all my money on my kids and their school fees. I would love to have a shop in Kampala or at a different place and work with other people who are selling crafts. I would also like to learn about new materials and how to make clothes.

photos by Marcus Westberg

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Responses

  1. Tudi jaz imam nekaj teh spominkov doma in vsi me sprašujejo, kje sem jih kupila. Ko povem, da so to izdelki pridnih rok Afričank, samo začudeno gledajo. Zame so spomin, na nepozabne dni pod nebom Afrike.