April 19, 2024
How pottery is helping Tanga women carve out a path to financial independence

About ten women from Mtae Ward in Lushoto District, Tanga Region, showcased their pottery creativity at a one-day exhibition at the Nafasi Artspace grounds in Mikocheni last Saturday.

Using a simple material, clay, these women create a variety of clay objects that prove their innovativeness.

Among the products on display at the exhibition were the Kibubu Ufinyanzi (clay piggy banks), specifically designed to motivate the people of Mtae Ward to save and plan for a better future.

The Kibubu Ufinyanzi clay piggy banks served as an embodiment of the collection’s theme, which focused on the meeting point of tradition and innovation.

Each piece is a work of art that expresses not only the rich cultural heritage of Tanga Region but also the aspirations and economic ambitions of the young artisans who craft them.

For many years, the art of pottery has been used in creating various items, predominantly household utensils such as cooking pots and interior decorations.

This time around, we’ve come to witness how technology can be used to educate people about finance.

I am talking about a comprehensive approach where you can set budgets using pottery piggy banks, a local technology that has been practiced for years.

Despite this innovation being popular in different parts of the world, in Mtae Ward, it has become something that is slowly changing the lives of many.

In August last year, an environmental scientist and natural resources conservationist, who is also the managing director of Actors for Community Empowerment and Environmental Sustainability (ACEES) Vicky John, embarked on an extraordinary journey to teach the residents of Mtae about money management.

She did so through pottery technology, giving rise to the inspiring Kibubu Ufinyanzi (clay piggy bank) project. To accomplish her goal, Vicky enlisted the help of ACEES’s financial specialists.

ACEES is a local organisation founded in 2016 whose mission is to build a socially, economically, and environmentally liberated society through capacity-building programmes, advocacy, and tapping of economic opportunities.

Initiated in August 2023 under the Nafasi Artspace Feel Free grant, Kibubu Ufinyanzi has become the beacon of hope for the people of Mtae.

One of the biggest reasons for choosing Mtae is because of the predominant agricultural activities in the ward.

“This is a livelihood initiative that targets women aged 18–35. I visited Lushoto while working on a farming project, during which I had the opportunity to visit a school in the ward to find out what the students’ aspirations were after completing their education,” says Vicky.

She wanted to know their plans for the future, their dreams, and if they considered investing money to achieve those dreams.

The students’ responses indicated that many girls lacked knowledge about financial investment. Most of them were considering getting married after school.

So, Vicky came up with the idea of doing something different, utilising the resources available in Mtae.

“I decided to provide financial education to empower these young girls to make informed decisions about their future, beyond just finishing school and getting married,” she shares.

Vicky says the absence of financial institutions in Mtae presented a formidable challenge, making financial education an elusive concept.

“Mtae is a bit distant from Lushoto town, so there are no banking services or financial institutions available. Therefore, financial education was challenging for them because there were no savings and credit cooperative societies (Saccos) or banks. Essentially, there were no motivating factors for people to invest their money,” she elaborates.

Considering the readily available and cost-effective resources, Vicky turned her attention to pottery technology, specifically the small-scale production of clay pots.

She began providing education, both in schools and among female farmers, to enable them to generate income through pottery.

Ramadhani Mussa, a farmer, is among many people, both females and males who have benefitted from the Kibubu Ufinyanzi financial literacy project.

Ramadhani is full of praise for the project, saying he can now budget his finances well.

“I grow beetroots and yams but I used to overspend my money before I learnt how to manage money through the project.”

Ramadhani says it wasn’t easy setting money aside for use during emergencies.

“We don’t have financial institutions in our area. Kibubu Ufinyazi has helped me avoid overspending as now I have a place to safely keep my money,” he shares.

Alternative source of income

Beyond financial literacy, Kibubu ufinyanzi’s success is woven with the pressing issue of climate change.

Farmers, predominantly women, bear the brunt of unpredictable weather patterns affecting their agricultural pursuits.

Vicky introduced pottery, specifically the production of clay pots, as a viable alternative income source for these women.

“Many farmers have been affected by climate change, which includes unpredictable rainfall and changing weather patterns, which have impacted their farming activities and led to a lack of alternative sources of income other than agriculture.”

She thought the production of clay pots, could be a viable alternative.

“We started making various pottery items, turning them into a source of income for these farmers. We taught them how to make clay piggy banks, which they could use to save their money. They could also sell household pottery items as an alternative source of income beyond agriculture,” she shares.

The Kibubu Ufinyanzi journey started with two women, Mama Chama and Mama Khadija, both residents of Mtae Ward, who are experts in crafting various items such as cookware, food storage containers, cups, as well house decorations.

Mama Chama and Mama Khadija who have been in the business for over a decade say the major challenge they had been facing was finding markets for their products.

“Market access has been a challenge, and we are still eager to find ways to address it,” shares Mama Chama.

In Lushoto, many people primarily use cooking utensils, water containers, and large pots made of fired clay.

“So, we decided to diversify our products by creating unique items like Kibubu Ufinyanzi to attract more customers,” says Mama Chama.

She says that, before meeting Vicky, they had tried to seek the help of local authorities for assistance in looking for markets but in vain.

“The authorities didn’t pay much attention to our plea, perhaps considering pottery as being less significant. However, there is currently a significant shift towards appreciating diverse handmade items.”

For instance, Mama Chama says, candle holders have gained attention, and the local government and hotels have now started recognising the value of the cultural artefacts crafted by local artisans.

Empowering the young generation

Vicky’s project extends its influence to schools, where in the company of Mama Chama, and Mama Khadija, they conduct classes on pottery, empowering the younger generation with both artistic and financial literacy skills.

“We target students as well because it’s in school where many learn about life. In rural areas, some secondary school students aged 18-19 are in forms three and four,” says Vicky.

Vicky and company approach headmasters of various schools, who permit them to teach the students, giving them a chance to craft their own Kibubu Ufinyazi.

An additional project in Lushoto schools involves designing clay water filters, hence promoting clean water access.

Protecting the environment

Vicky shares that the journey of crafting Kibubu Ufinyazi doesn’t end there; they have been making sure to protect the environment by using alternative sources of energy.

“We have been using alternative sources of energy to fire our pottery instead of wood. We now use sawdust as a way to protect the environment,” she shares.

Since Kibubu Ufinyanzi’s establishment, more women in Mtae Ward have learnt about money management as well as making and selling pottery products to earn extra income.

A total of 35 women have benefitted so far.  Vicky plans to ensure this technology reaches more women in other regions.

So far, the pottery piggy banks have been serving as a vessel for financial wisdom, highlighting the importance of saving and investment in building a secure future.

Among the major lessons learnt at the Nafasi Artspace exhibition, include areas of improvement, how to attract markets as well as networking.

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