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'Weaving mats puts food on my table'

By Geoffrey Arich | July 20th 2016
John Migeni from Nyando. He left his job as a tailor after a series of frustrations at his workplace to venture into self employment. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

Seventeen years ago, John Migeni, 42, from Nyando left his job as a tailor after a series of frustrations at his workplace to venture into self employment.

Thinking of what businesses he could do, Migeni settled on weaving mats using water reeds popularly known as togo (papyrus) among the Luo community.

“I was running out of finances and since making mats did not require any capital to start — the papyrus plant was abundant along the lake — I settled for this business,” he said.

Mats made from papyrus reeds have a ready market in most towns within Lake Victoria region because a good number of fishermen or fishmongers prefer to use them for drying fish and ‘omena’. The mats are also bought by individuals who then use them to make ceilings for their homes.

“I do not have challenges sourcing for customers. If anything, most customers opt to place their orders in advance,” he said.

Migeni says the mats retail at between Sh100 and Sh300 depending on their size.

It takes him a day to make four mats and this involves weaving the reeds together and cutting them into their desired shapes. The first step, however, is to dry the reeds and ensure they are ready for weaving.

On a weekly basis, Migeni can sell a maximum of 15 mats bringing his weekly income to about Sh3,500. And while he admits this trade does not make him a lot of money, Migeni says he is not interested in venturing into any other business.

“There is no way am going to quit my job. I have thought of doing that but considering the relationship I have created with my customers, I remain put,” he said.

Migeni encourages youth to capitalise on every opportunity and drop their obsession with white collar jobs.

“Unemployment will only end if we avoid job stereotypes. Who said one can only make it with a white collar job?” he asked.

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