Situating Alternative Textiles in Kenya

Page 1

SITUATING ALTERNATIVE TEXTILES IN KENYA An insight into the potential to stimulate local production and entrench sustainable practices into Kenya’s Textile and Apparel sector. Abridged Version

Fashion Revolution Kenya September 2020

Contents Credits Authors Stella Keino Iona McCreath

5 Sustainable Fashion in the local context

Researchers Stella Keino Iona McCreath Krupa Mandavia

7 Plant and animal fibres in Kenya

Publisher Fashion Revolution Kenya Design Wangari Nyanjui Photography Š Reed Davis |

In partnership with

6 Scope of study

18 Policy Recommendations



Sustainable Fashion in the local context The Kenyan Textile and Apparel industry is at a pivotal stage as there are many governmental initiatives set up to grow the sector. It is integrated into the national strategy for economic development and serves as one of the main pillars in the Big Four Agenda, an initiative which President Uhuru Kenyatta is focusing on in his last presidential term. On the agenda are food security, manufacturing, affordable universal healthcare and affordable housing. Looking at the global climate, there is increasing pressure to prioritise sustainable practices and develop inherently sustainable industries. There are many key international organisations that have come to play key roles in supporting sustainable fashion, one being the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion. Despite the recognised need to move more sustainable practices and approaches to the everyday, there is yet to be a global definition on what sustainable fashion is. In this research, we look at sustainability in the context of fashion in relation to the environment, society and the economy, familiarly known as the planet, the people and the profits. Close attendion is paid to reduction in consumption and the idea of intentional consumption and designing long life products. Multiple initiatives have been put in place by both the public and private sectors in order to facilitate the growth and development of the Kenyan fashion industry as a more valued part of the economy. Some of these initiatives include: • •

• • •

Government of Kenya’s Big Four Agenda: Manufacturing (textile and leather) Adam Smith International, in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives and the African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation, Farm to Fashion: cotton and wool Government of Kenya’s Buy Kenya Build Kenya Fashion Revolution’s Who Made My Clothes? campaign Act Change Transform (Act!) in partnership with Fashion for Fighters Foundation, Kenya’s Fashion for Shujaa and Wildlife Direct’s Wildlife Warriors

In order to develop and implement strategies that will result in effective outcomes, it is vital to have a better understanding of the local industry as well as an understanding of global best practices that can be relevantly applied to the local context. One such initiative is the Made in Rwanda policy. Introduced by the Rwandan government in December 2017, it serves to enhance “Rwanda’s domestic market through value chain development”1. Looking solely at the fashion industry in relation to this policy, its creation and implementation has facilitated duty free importation on all machinery, fabric dyes and most fabrics. They have also facilitated access to finance for designers through the Business Development Fund2, Export Growth Fund Facility3 amongst others, as a necessary step to building the country’s fashion industry after banning the importation of second hand clothing. This research seeks to make the case for the stimulation of the Textile and Apparel sector in Kenya as part of the Big Four agenda as well as promote the global need to prioritise sustainable practices. It furthermore seeks to outline the opportunities for Kenya to be a regional and global hub for sustainable fashion manufacturing. It subsequently provides a clear picture of the opportunities of sustainable textiles and production capacity, highlights the current challenges and make recommendations that will fill the gaps to promote an industry that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. This report serves to add much needed nuances and understanding to Kenya’s sustainable fashion value chains, whilst simultaneously looking at strategies and best practices employed by players in similar markets. All of this with an aim to gather the information needed to develop a strategy that can ensure long term success.

1. Made In Rwanda Policy 2. Business Development Fund 3. Export Growth Fund Facility



Scope of Study This study explores the current practices occurring in textile production within Kenya, what the challenges are, what areas show most promise and potential as well as how innovative areas can be utilised to contribute to the growth of sustainable fashion manufacturing in Kenya. To understand the Kenyan context and market appeal, we also explore the global context of sustainable fashion - which is essential in providing important recommendations for the industry so the sector can be developed in a manner that caters to the global demand for sustainable fashion. The research was conducted through an ethnographic approach which combined primary and secondary sources of information. This consisted of doing a review of the current literature and policy surrounding the industry both locally and globally. Followed by conducting interviews and collecting primary data from different stakeholders within the industry locally. 26 different stakeholders were interviewed between February and March 2020. The interviews were conducted both remotely, through phone calls and emails as well as physically, on location. The data collected was then analysed and evaluated in relation to the literature and policy reviews and used to generate policy recommendations.

Plant and Animal Fibres in Kenya Objectives Through this research we aim to: 1. understand the current situation within Kenya on the production of sustainable textiles, by understanding the relationship of all the relevant stakeholders to this industry through ethnographic based research which combines literature reviews with interviews and participant observation. 2. evaluate the current legislative and policy framework that impacts sustainable textile production and offer recommendations to address the problems and promote a more sustainable local fashion industry. 3. deduce the potential of developing a scalable sustainable textile production industry.

“In the Kenyan context, sustainability to me is looking at all aspects including the designers mind and ability to fit into this sustainable narrative that is being sold globally.” — Katungulu Mwendwa, Katush

The scope for sustainable and alternative fibres in Kenya is large and has great potential to grow. Most animal skins, protein and plant fibres available locally are by-products of the meat, fish and agriculture industries, sectors which greatly contribute to the gross domestic product of Kenya. Fish leather and wool serve as by-products of the meat and fish industries. Both these fibres have great potential however a lot of capacity building needed in order to grow and reach the potential. With wool, there is the need to educate farmers on the value of the wool as well as increase the capacity of spinners and weavers to allow for the development of finer spun yarns. With fish leather there is a need to create more awareness of the product in the public space, as well as increase access to leather processing facilities. Looking towards the agricultural industries pineapple, banana and coconut are all plants that are largely used in the industry. The waste generated from the processes they undergo in order to extract food and beverage products, can be used to develop fibres for textiles. Globally there have been many advancements in the processing of pineapple fibre to generate textile with the creation of piña textiles amongst others. Locally, there has also been some experimentation with the fibre, however nothing has yielded as sophisticated a textile as yet. Coconut has also been used as a fibre, however mostly for ropes and door mats due to its coarseness. Many have however been using the coconut shell to develop jewellery and create buttons and other accessories to be used on clothing. This fibre too has a lot of potential given the right innovation. Banana fibre is another that holds great potential for textiles. It is currently used to make bags, tablemats and wall hangings but with the right processing methods can be developed into a silk grade fabric. These three fibres all hold great potential in the sphere of textiles within Kenya given their versatility coupled with the large quantities of supply available. There are also a cluster of fibres that can be grown in rotation or serve to better the environments within

which they are grown, socially, economically and environmentally. These are primarily silk, rain-fed cotton and hemp. Silk is a fibre that textile producers in Kenya are conversant with in its Eri, Wild and Mulberry varieties. Silk, however, is only a fraction of what is produced from the process. The pupa which constitutes 80% of the cocoon, with silk making up the remaining 20%, serves as an excellent protein supplement for human consumption. Additionally, fertiliser is generated from the organic matter and serves as a great nitrogen replacement for the soil. Castor leaves are also required as feed for the worms and also benefit the farmland. Another fibre to be considered is rain-fed cotton, which is grown across most of Africa and can be found across East Africa. It is usually grown by subsistence farmers who rotate it with other crops and sell it to gain supplementary income. Unlike irrigated cotton, it does not use any water in its growth cycle and thus does not have the same adverse environmental effects. Complications arise with inconsistent weather patterns which consequently threaten its supply. Hemp is a fibre that has gained a bad reputation due to the negative perceptions associated with the Cannabis plant that has high levels of THC and intoxicating effects. Hemp on the other hand is non-intoxicating cannabis and has a wide range of possibilities as a textile. As a plant it helps prevent soil erosion, removes toxins from the soil and is beneficial to surrounding crops. Growing best on land that produces high yields of corn, it is ideal in a country such as Kenya that relies so heavily on corn for its staple diet. Its cultivation is currently illegal in Kenya thus hindering the opportunities to explore its undeniable benefits for the Textile and Apparel industry. Silk, rain-fed cotton and hemp can all be viewed as fibres that can be explored in relation to sustainable fashion.



Sisal and water hyacinth are both fibres that are already being used quite largely in Kenya however have not been used to develop refined textiles as yet. Sisal is a fibre used extensively in a somewhat traditional capacity thus many are already familiar with the fibre. It was introduced to the country during the colonial era however its exploration declined at independence. In textiles it is often combined with other fibres such as water hyacinth, pineapple and banana in order to increase the strength of the fibre. Although technology exists to process it into a smoother and more refined fibre, knowledge sharing in this capacity has been hindered locally. Water hyacinth is an invasive plant found in several lakes across Kenya however it can be harvested and processed into textile. Currently there are people using it but the processes of harvesting pose great danger to human life as the areas where it concentrates are inhabited by dangerous species such as hippos, crocodiles and snakes. Kenya is fortuitous in that its climate, altitude and soil allow for many different plants to thrive. Calotropis Procera and Flax are some such plants which can thrive locally and produce refined textiles. Calotropis Procera, more commonly known as the Apple of Sodom, is more often used for its medicinal purposes and firelwood in different regions across Kenya. Research is currently underway by Dr. Muchugi of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in collaboration with Chinese textile manufacturers on its potential as a textile. Although at its early stages it shows great promise. The Pendeza Weaving Project has also been experimenting with its fibre, generating a textile that resembles a combination of cotton and silk. Flax produces linen fabrics including damasks and lace with coarser grades of flax used for twine and rope, and can additionally be used in the paper industry for currency, art, archival and security papers. Grown as part of a crop rotation cycle, flax is a plant that has incredibly beneficial effects on other crops. Currently in Kenya, it is grown for its nutritional properties, linseed, however it is not favoured by many farmers as they prefer food crops. This fibre holds great potential however little has been explored. In order to scale it up, the sensitization of farmers and other actors in the industry to its benefits and uses is vital.

There are many fibres which are deemed to be sustainable or referenced in the discourse around sustainable fashion that should not be considered as sustainable. One such fibre is bamboo, although it holds incredible properties as a plant and can be processed into a wide range of materials whether for textile or for building the processes needed to transform the plant into a textile are not sustainable. The process requires heavy use of chemicals and water which cannot be purified for use thereafter. The residues are harmful to aquatic life and extensive research would be required to find a safe method of extracting the fibre before considering bamboo as a viable alternative textile. This research has also explored natural dyes, as dyeing is one of the factors that threatens the sustainability of products. When it comes to natural dyes much of the knowledge is vernacular and the elements used within traditional dyeing processes tend to be indigenous to certain regions. Although natural dyeing processes hold a lot of potential, they cannot gain as much accuracy and diversity as chemical dyes, thus preventing many fashion brands from being able to solely use natural dyes. In addition, the process of disposing of the waste generated from chemical dyeing is extensive and dye vats are unavailable to cottage industries in Kenya.

When it comes to natural dyes much of the knowledge around them is vernacular and the elements used within traditional dyeing processes tend to be indigenous to certain regions.


Plant Fibres



Region: Central

Region: Central

County: Grown in the steep slopes of the Aberdare Mountain and Mau Ranges in Nyeri & Nyandarua Counties Annual Production: Unknown Pros and cons: A relatively new eco-fibre that is currently being explored for textile production a promising alternative to conventional fabrics. Uses: Used in the production of linen like fabric. Industry Players: Green Nettle Textile

Apple of Sodom (Calotropis Procera) Region: Rift Valley and Eastern County: Grows in the arid counties of Baringo, Kajiado, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi and Turkana. Annual Production: Unknown Pros and cons: A relative new eco-fibre in Kenya being researched by ICRAF for textile production. Uses: Long white “silk like” hair is spun into yarn to make fabric for textile production. Industry Players: Pendeza Weaving Project—textile designer making scarves


Plant Fibres

Pineapple (Pina)

Banana (Musa)

County: Nyeri and Nyandarua

Region: Central, Nyanza, Coast

Region: Central and Nyanza

Annual Production: Unknown

County: Cultivated in Gatundu, Thika, Malindi and Kisii mainly for its fruit not its leaf fibre.

County: Cultivated in Embu, Kisii, Meru and Kirinyaga

Pro: Grows with little or no added fertiliser, pesticides or herbicides. Makes up an important part of crop rotation. None of the plant is wasted once the fibres have been extracted. Woody core is utilised in particleboard, animal bedding). Shorter fibres converted into pulp for paper and board. Seeds are used for animal feed Con: Flax for fibre production is not practiced in Kenya. Whereas, flax for seed (linseed) production is growing due to its nutritional properties that appeal to the health conscious consumers across the country Uses: linen fabrics (fine grade), twine and rope (coarser grade), as a raw material for the paper industry such as printing currency, cigarettes, art, archival and security papers. Industry Players: N/A

Annual Production: Unknown Pros and cons: An eco-fibre derived from the by-products (leaves) of pineapple production in the country. Uses: Piña processed into high-quality fibre.for textile and leather production. Industry Players: Pine Kazi—a pilot project designing piña shoes.

Bamboo (Pina) Region: Widely found throughout Kenya but in particular Central and Coast. County: Grown as a farm crop throughout Kenya. Whereas the Highland Bamboo is concentrated in the mountain ranges and forest areas managed by the national government. Annual Production: Unknown Pro: Easily grown in Kenya. Strong and durable and can be spun alone or blended with other materials-cotton, hemp, silk, Lyocell (Tencel) and others. Con: Further research and development is required for the improvement of processing the fibre into textile. Production currently uses harmful chemicals and a lot of water

Annual Production: Unknown Pro: Banana stems are a by-product of banana harvest. The stem produces fibre for use in textile production and the slurry from the extraction is utilized as manure or biogas. Con: Requires further research and development as the textile produced locally is too stiff for weaving. Uses: Banana fibre is used in making purses, tablemats, wall hangings and other accessories in Kenya. Other uses of banana stem are currency notes, silk grade fabric, high quality rugs and car tyres. Industry Players: A pilot banana fibre to textile project is underway in Kutus, Kirinyaga County. Omina Otsieno— Designer

Uses: Bamboo has many uses cutting across subsistence use products, timber substitutes, fibre and textile, plastic composites, food and beverage, energy, health and cosmetic industry products.. Bamboo fibre to textile produces a number of products: intimate apparel garments; bamboo non-woven fabric used to make viscose fibres; medical supplies and sanitary materials; bedroom and bathroom linens. Industry Players: Africa Plantation Capital–an international dealer in bamboo farming and bamboo textile manufacturing Lucy Rao—Designer and Agricultural Engineer Deepa Dosaja—Designer Katungulu Mwendwa— Designer


Plant Fibres

Plant Fibres


Water Hyacinth


Region: N/A

Region: Nyanza and Rift Valley

Region: Eastern, Rift Valley & Coast

County: N/A

County: Grows abundantly in Lake Victoria and Lake Naivasha.

Annual Production: N/A Pro: Hemp is a traditional fibre crop that is easy to grow organically. It requires limited pesticides as it grows quickly and attracts few pests. Hemp has a deep root system that helps prevent soil erosion, removes toxins, provides a disease break, and aerates the soil to the benefit of future crops. Con: Hemp cultivation for any purpose in Kenya is illegal. Uses: Hemp fibres are used for making textiles, paper, bedding materials, absorbents, particleboard, building materials (ceiling panels), Industry Players: N/A

Annual Production: Unknown Pro: Applying technology to manage the invasive species for the creation of other useful products such as biogas, fertilizers and fibre to textile production Con: Requires further research and development to get the fibre to a state for blending with other textiles. Harvesting water hyacinth as a livelihood activity is a huge risk (attacks from snakes, hippos, crocodiles) that comes with various challenges (lack of protective gear and/or lifeguard services). Uses: Water hyacinth fibre is used in the manufacturing of textiles for apparel, leather, and arts/crafts. In addition to fibre-boards for general-purpose use, bituminised board for use as a low cost roofing material; yarn and rope; basket work and as water purification purposes for textile factory effluents. Creation of furniture, paper, floor mats, tablemats and various handicrafts, as well as the development of fertilisers and biogas. Industry Players: Pendeza Weaving project—textile designer utilizing water hyacinth fibres.

County: Kilifi, Taita-Taveta, Makunei, Nakuru, Solai, Kiambu Counties. Annual Production: 8,834.90 Tonnes Pro: Sisal is ample in Kenya. Con: Lack of knowledge and technique in developing sisal into a more pliable and refined fibre for textile production. Uses: Widely utilized in making dartboards, geotextiles, wire rope cores, spa products, cat scratching posts, lumbar support belts, rugs, espadrille soles, disc buffers and buffing cloths. It is also replacing glass fibres in composite materials used to make cars, wall tiles made of sisal resin and furniture. It can be diversified into apparel/ textile production as well as hair extensions. Industry Players: Rea Vipingo Plantations Ltd—large scale sisal producer Hadithi Crafts—sisal basket weavers Beacon of Hope and Sunny Dolat— textile designers piloting sisal for textile production

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PLANT FIBRES 1. Develop a strategy and/or action plan that stimulates plant fibres for textile production in Kenya. A strategy that promotes locally grown and processed fibres for textile production that is fully backed by GoK regulations. 2. Support to the research and development of plant fibres for textile production in Kenya.



Plant Fibres

Plant Fibres

Cotton (Organic Rainfed) Region: Nyanza, Western County: Kisumu and Nyanza Counties. Annual Production: N/A Pro: Growers in Kenya can attain organic cotton certification, a stronger platform for competitive trade in the region. Promotes the sustainable use of local natural resources for production without the application of external inputs like synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, defoliants and chemically treated or genetically modified (GM) seeds. Benefits the global environment—reduces environmental foot print, promotes safe work and better livelihoods, protects the next generation, impacts a healthy food system, promotes fair price for sustainability and protects soil health. Rainfed cotton certification is provided by Cotton Made in Africa and specifically includes small holder farmers Con: Production process of organic cotton for export has its complexity, risks and challenges mainly from the certification process which is long and arduous. Organic certification ensures that the cotton passing through each stage of the manufacturing process is tracked. Uses: Promote Kenyan-made fabrics from organic cotton. Woven—Organic cotton apparel, bed linens, furniture, tablecloths, curtains, toys-dolls and stuffed animals, yarns for knitting and crochet, etc. Non-woven—cosmetic and medical products (feminine, cotton wads/ swabs and bandages). Industry Players: Pamba Mali organic cotton project Tosheka Textiles Local ginneries, yarn spinners and textile mills.

RECOMMENDATIONS Development of the organic cotton value chain and the eventual attainment of Organic cotton certification.



Animal Fibres

Animal Fibres


Fish Leather

Mulberry silk (Sericulture) Region: Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley, Central, Eastern, Coast and Nairobi. County: Widely practiced throughout Kenya

Region: Nyanza & Rift Valley

Eri silk Region: Eastern County: Machakos, Kitui, Makueni, Mwingi and Taita-Taveta Counties

County: Kisumu and Lodwar Counties. Annual Production: N/A Pro: A by-product of the fish filleting industry.

Wild silk Region: Eastern & Coast County: Northern Rangelands area, Makueni County and Arabuko- Sokoke Forest in Kilifi County.

It is light and resilient.

Annual Production: N/A

Con: No tangible strategy or policy in place for fish leather, as well as no listing of fish skin in the Hide, Skins and Leather Trade Act.

Pro: Kenya’s tropical climate has the potential to yield a stream of about 3-4 cocoon crops a year. Industry has potential owing to the availability of the cocoon (seri, eri or wild), market demand and optimism and willingness of farmers to continue with the venture. Con: Stringent nurturing conditions (prevalence of pests & diseases) and resource constraints (insufficient water). Lack of degumming methods to allow for the production of different finishes and qualities of silk Uses: Cocoon for the production of silk textile Pupa for the production of protein supplement (ground into fine poweder) for human consumption. Industry Players: Mulberry Silk • ICIPE • National Sericulture Station • Pendeza Weaving Project Kisumu • Beacon of Hope • Weavers Worth • KikoRomeo • Small scale farmers throughout the country Eri Silk • Tosheka Textiles—eco textile developer • Katungulu Mwendwa— Designer Wild Silk • ICIPE through small scale farmers

Because of the scales. fish leather has a very unique and beautiful texture, almost comparable to snake skin.

Uses: Shoes, hats, belts, handbags/purses and apparel. Luxury lining material for interiors of automobiles.

RECOMMENDATIONS 1. Further research and development in rearing of the silkworms and exploring other degumming methods to allow for the production of different finishes and qualities of silk. 2. Capacity building and training of farmers for best practices. 3. Additional support by GoK and research institutes such as KARLO/KIRDI could increase prospects of growth in the country’s sericulture industry.

Industry Players: • KIRDI-Kisumu • Victorian Foods • Deepa Dosaja • Jamil Walji • KikoRomeo

RECOMMENDATIONS Develop a strategy and or policy for the production of fish leather for the country as well as push for inclusion in the Hide, Skins and Leather Trade Act.



Animal Fibres

Wool Region: Nyanza & Rift Valley County: Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Keiyo, Marakwet, West Pokot, Nandi, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Aberdare Mountain Ranges and Mount Kenya in Nyeri Counties. Annual Production: Unknown Pro: Sheep herds are available throughout the country and the potential is there if farmers are provided with the right knowledge and training for sheep rearing for wool. Con: Farmers are unaware of the true value of wool and sheep rearing for wool. Inconsistent wool quality thus making supply not meet the demand. Inability to get uniform yarn from local markets as all local wool is hand-spun (based on capacity of wool spinners). Uses: Wool fleece production (soft fibres) for making yarn for clothing and/or the coarser fleece production (coarse fibres) for rugs and mats. Industry Players: • Kenana Knitters • Pendeza Weaving project • Beacon of Hope • Weavers Worth • KikoRomeo

RECOMMENDATIONS 1. Develop a strategy for the wool industry that promotes growth and strengthens the wool supply chain. 2. Capacity building and training of farmers on the value of wool as well as sheep rearing for wool production. 3. Research into identifying best practices in other regions in order to develop effective policies on wool production in the country.

Animal Fibres






Natural Dyes


Region: Countrywide

1. Develop a natural dyes value chain from cultivation to extraction (farming options of selected plant species for natural dye extraction).

Annual Production: Unknown Pro: Sourced naturally from trees/bark, shrubs, leaves, flowers, vegetables and insects. Cochineal insect introduced in Laikipia as biological control for the invasive species “the prickly pear cacti is a potential source for an economically valuable dye—carmine-red Con: The dye and tannin extraction industry in Kenya is relatively small. Research and development on natural dye sources as well as production is novel and limited, thus many textile producers utilize both natural dyes and commercial, chemical dyes. Uses: Small-scale export sourced from farmers in Thika and Kwale are largely tannins (used to dye leather) and Annatto seeds (used in food colouring) from Bixa trees. Dyes are used to colour fibres for textile production. Industry Players: • Basket Weaving Women’s Groups supported by Hadithi Crafts in the rural villages between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Park • Umbrella organisation of women groups in Kitui working with Sunny Dolat. • Kenana Knitters use natural dyes for dyeing their knitting wool. • Tosheka Textiles Ltd developed dyes for textile production.

2. Local or national studies into existing or potential opportunities for natural dye farmers. 3. Introduction and enforcement of safety measures during dyeing process. 4. Certification through documentation & standardisation of traditional natural dyes.



Policy Recommendations This research has found that the needs for the industry are varying and both the public and private sector must be involved in order to grow and generate an inherently sustainable textile and apparel industry. Within the country there lies a vast amount of potential in the fibres that can be used to develop textiles as well as a wide range of producer groups who have the passion and knowledge in order to do so. There are many designers who are willing to use locally made textiles however many have been unable to get consistency and continuity in supply. The needs fall into the following categories: • •

• • •

Government sensitization and support Capacity building, in the form of: • Education • Training and Skills development • Machinery • Access to finance • Access to inputs and raw materials • R&D and preservation and integration of vernacular knowledge Integration of the industry Creation of local market and sensitization of the public Creation of policy targeted towards boosting the sector

There are a range of discrepancies which occur in relation to the Textile and Apparel sector in Kenya which subsequently hinder the ability for its growth. One such aspect can be seen with the fact that machinery for the textile industry is said to be zero-rated however all the cottage industries trying to import looms, reeds, and other types of equipment face high duty tariffs. It is not clear however if the government policy does not cover machinery for cottage industries or if the problem occurs in the implementation by customs officers. These discrepancies are further experienced in the realm of industry integration, where many are not aware of what is occuring in the industry and what opportunities there are.

This research has consequently brought to light an imminent need for programs and policies targeted towards MMEs and SMEs that serve to expand knowledge sharing in conjunction with skills development, increase the availability and access to machinery, increase the opportunities for access to finance through loans, grants and loan guarantor support. Furthermore, these programs and policies should facilitate the access to inputs and raw materials, through the support of local farmers and producer groups, the reduction in importation costs and the development of the labour/trade unions to ensure that labour supply is not volatile. Furthermore there needs to be further emphasis on research and development initiatives that serve to develop the current sector and to gain knowledge and understanding on the processing of fibres. This needs to be done alongside the preservation of vernacular knowledge systems, through documentation and efforts to increase the popularity around vernacular knowledge. All of this is underpinned by a need to sensitise the public and create a local market. Ultimately, elevating the status of Made in Kenya products. Although the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) is the mandated government authority to develop alternative fibres, its information is inaccessible to the general public, due to NDAs. Attempts were made to interview KIRDI in Nairobi for the purposes of this report, however, they were unresponsive. A number of the people interviewed, expressed frustration that research is being done, but the results are not shared in a way that is accessible for an SME to learn and grow.





Enabling Factors


Sustainable textiles policy framework as well as a transparent and supportive legal and regulatory environment;

• • • •

• •

• • • •

Government agencies; Public sector; Field experts; Industry stakeholders.

Keen interest in developing the sector; Importance given to regulation of animal fibres and new plant fibres. Sustainability programmes.

Better understanding of existing and emerging sustainable practices in the industry; Development of strategies and policies on sustainable fibres; Develop structures and potential to increase efficiency of production; Increased demand for sustainable plant and animal derived products; Increased knowledge and implementation of sustainability in the textileapparel industry. More ethical value chains.

Institutional capacity to carry out training; Widely distributed value chain; Potential budget constraints of existing facilities & institutions.

• • • •

Increase in numbers of skilled workers; Increased knowledge of sustainable fibres and best practices; Increased income potential; Increased output potential and industry growth.

• • • •

• • •

Public sector; Industry stakeholders; Experts both local and international

Standards certification and capacity for product testing;

• • • •

National Government; Public sector Field experts; Industry stakeholders.

• •

Keen interest in developing the sector; Sustainability programmes

• • • • •

Political resolve; Limited knowledge; Institutional capacity; Possible budget constraints; Limited trust in the transparency of such certification from global actors.

• • • • • •

Sustainability certificates are accessible to local stakeholders; Developed local best practices; Increased transparency; Increased demand for local products; Increased recognition and wealth creation for producers; Improved branding.

Existing market linkages, domestic, regionally and internationally;

• •

Industry stakeholders; Private sector.

Keen interest to collaborate.

• •

Widely distributed value chain; Hesitation to cooperate with industry members.

• • • •

Knowledge and skill sharing; Increased support and partnerships between counterparts; Income sources for informal groups and traditional communities; Joint projects.

Traditional knowledge and skills preservation

• • •

Government; Public sector; Industry stakeholders.

Existence of protection of traditional knowledge under intellectual property rights.

Traditional communities are widely distributed; Potential hesitation to be part of such an activity.

• • •

Preservation of traditional knowledge and practices; Certification of practices that can be protected; Source of income for traditional communities whose practices are being used.

• •

Government Agencies; Public sector (e.g international development bodies); Private sector.

Keen interest in developing textileapparel industry; Sustainability programmes

Collaboration with multiple stakeholders; Political resolve.

Increased access to resources allowing for growth of capacity and development.

Availability of skills of both basic level and those that require innovation (up-skilling, reskilling, continuous learning and ICT development);

Public-private dialogue on the sustainable textiles sector

Keen interest in developing the industry and skills of persons within the country.

Political resolve; Limited knowledge; Institutional capacity; Possible budget constraints of existing institutions.

Expected Outcomes

• •





Enabling Factors


Access to inputs through increasing local production of sustainable fibres for textiles by improving domestic value chains.

Government Agencies

Agriculture and Livestock sector is of key importance to Kenya and there is willingness to develop it.

• •

Political resolve; Institutional capacity

• •

Consistent availability of raw material for textile production; Revival of sectors such as wool, cotton and reintroduction of other sustainable fibres-flax.

Access to modern technology through continuous investment in sustainable textile research and development (R&D), improved machinery as well as resource efficiency through cleaner production systems.

Research Institutes (Sericulture Center, KIRDI, KARLO); Public sector; Industry stakeholders; Field experts.

Existence of research institutes in this sector (e.g KIRDI/KARLO).

• •

Political resolve; Institutional capacity

• •

Increased innovation and sustainable solutions; Improved sharing of R&D results with relevant stakeholders to allow implementation of research and scaling up of improved practices; Specific research on sustainable plant and animal based processing such as wool and sheepskin production, sisal, nettle and bamboo processing to name a few.

Access to financial partnerships that allow the banking/financial sector to incentivize innovative financial products for the sustainable textile industry.

• •

Government Agencies; Public sector (e.g international development bodies); Private sector.

Utility tariffs that remain at a level benchmarked against a regional average for medium and large industrial businesses.

Government Agencies (e.g Ministry of Industry, Trade & Coop., Ministry of Energy); Private sector; Finance and developing bodies.

Access to affordable industrial zones and parks;

• •

Government Agencies; Public sector (e.g international development bodies); Private sector.

• • •

• •

Expected Outcomes

Key interest in developing MMEs, SMEs and textile- apparel industry

• • •

Sustainable textile and apparel manufacturing has been identified as a potential area of growth by the government and other bodies.

Keen interest in developing textileapparel industry;

Sustainability programmes

Bureaucracy in providing access to funds; Difficulty of collateral conditions; Lack of information.

Ease of doing business will allow growth of production capacity leading to sector development and growth in GDP.

Bureaucracy in providing access to funds, Lack of transparency and uncertainty by investors in the survival or competitive prospects to invest in the textile & apparel sector.

Higher volume output potential and consistency will allow the sector to fulfil large volume orders and provide relatively more affordable products.

Collaboration with multiple stakeholders; Political resolve.

Increased access to resources allowing for growth of capacity and development.





Enabling Factors


Creating standards and ensuring consumer protection in production and use of sustainable fibres

• • • •

• •

• • • •

National Government; Public sector (KIRIDI, KARLO, etc…) Field experts; Industry stakeholders.

Keen interest in developing the sector; Sustainability programmes.

Political resolve; Limited knowledge; Institutional capacity Possible budget constraints.

Expected Outcomes • • • •

Formalised sustainability standards; Increased sustainable practices; Increased demand and trust of local products; Increased areas of employment and skill development.



Enabling Factors


Establishment of strong links with the domestic supplier base for locally sourced inputs

Collaboration in some levels already in place,

Keen interest in working together.

Industry stakeholder’s (e.g Kenya Fashion Council, KAM) Other industry bodies.

Widely distributed value chain; Inconsistency in production

Expected Outcomes • • • • •

Reduced waste; Increased focus on domestic value chain; Innovation in textiles and fabrics; Potential for relatively more affordable products; Increased sustainability in value chain, diversification of incomes.



Enabling Factors


Awareness/Communication Campaigns

• • •

Government Agencies; International organisations; Industry stakeholders.

Keen interest in developing textileapparel industry; Sustainability programmes

• Local Preference

• • •

Government Agencies; Private sector; Industry stakeholders (e.g Kenya Fashion Council, Fashion Revolution Kenya).

Keen interest in developing industry.

• •

Expected Outcomes

Mistrust in the government, textile industry players Value chain members.

Potential to grow various aspects of the value chain and diversify incomes of member’s (e.g farmers, spinners and weavers).

Transparency and sustainable production across the value chain.

Political resolve; Potential budget constraints.

Increased awareness of local products;

Better understanding of farm to fashion connection;

Transparency in value chain;

Growth of sector;

More demand for sustainable products.



Conclusion The textile and apparel industry within Kenya is one that shows great promise however evidence from this research points to a problematic core. Despite the Textile and Apparel sectors being part of the Big Four Agenda, it is evident that more policy work needs to be done to enable Kenya to become a hub of sustainable fashion manufacturing. From a governmental perspective, there is a lot more support of industry that is required. It is evident that only large-scale manufacturers are able to be heard by the government and thus new policies introduced as well as support schemes are almost always targeted towards them. A more holistic approach to the industry is paramount. Taking the case of cotton, governmental support and initiatives are looking to amplify industrial cotton plantations. This will subsequently create adverse effects both socially and environmentally. Cotton’s harmful environmental effects are triggered when grown on a scale such as this. Socially, this initiative might affect the income and livelihoods of the many subsistence farmers who have been growing and selling cotton on smaller scales. It will be important to find a way to find a way for these farmers to continue to sell their yields either to aggregators or mills at favourable prices. Furthermore, artisanal producer groups and cottage industries working with spinners and weavers will also suffer greatly as the project is not set up to serve them. Cottage industries ultimately cannot be ignored, as it provides employment for a vast number of people, predominantly in rural areas. Furthermore, if resourced well, cottage industries can be an incredibly effective mode of production and have great social, economic and environmental impact as well as serve to lead the sustainability agenda. The newly formed Tailors Association and Kenya Fashion Council purpose to advocate for more recognition of cottage industries. There is a need to consider localised artisans manufacturing, rather than current industrial modes of production, that will serve to have the greatest social and economic impact whilst mitigating environmental damage.

The journey towards sustainability requires the right environment, with the centring of industry and consumer education as a key component. If integrated in the right way, throughout the value chain, it can serve to shift industries and more importantly, the whole country towards practices that are inherently sustainable. Moreover, when looking at knowledge systems, education and training, it is vital to highlight the power of vernacular knowledge and consequently serve to preserve and integrate this knowledge into modern systems. Fish leather, wool, pineapple, banana and coconut are just some of the outputs generated from the byproducts of the meat, fish and agricultural industries that are already being explored in Kenya. India has already been able to develop very sophisticated fabrics from these fibres. For Kenya, further innovation, training and skills development will serve to elevate what is currently happening and explore new potential thus, subsequently closing the loop in a circular economy. This will furthermore require knowledge sharing and innovation through collaboration across countries in a bid to share cultural and technological best practice that will lead to the development of robust industries.

The integration of cottage industries including handloom weavers, knitters, tailors and designers, who are currently said to number over 100,000 people, is a critical step in creating a sustainable fashion industry.


Through this research it has become evident that the Textile and Apparel industry within Kenya requires investment and collaboration if it is to grow and achieve its full potential. A lack of capacity in the form of machinery and access to resources has created a huge gap, preventing artisans, textile producers and designers from being able to scale up. This can be seen as a result of the lack of integration of the sector as well as an inability to gain access to financial assistance to acquire new machinery as well as the duty costs that are placed on machinery and parts. An inability to gain access to finance has further prevented many from being able to get what they require to scale up their businesses. If the industry is to grow and become truly sustainable, there is a need for financial assistance alongside capacity building. This can be done primarily through asset finance as well as grants. From an industry integration perspective, many stakeholders are unaware of materials and services that already exist in the country. A similar situation is evident with LDC-KIRDI in Kisumu who have a stateof-the-art leather tannery, but it has not yet been commissioned for public use. Furthermore, this can be seen with certain designers within the industry being unaware of the current textile producing capacity. There is an overall need for better communication & knowledge-sharing amongst all industry players from farm to fashion. When it comes to procuring new machinery, many stakeholders interviewed in this report highlight an inability to gain access to the machinery or parts they need due to the high importation costs that are placed on machinery by the Kenya Revenue Authority.


Ultimately, in order to generate a sustainable local textile and apparel industry there is an immediate need to develop local processing capacities. Through developing textile mills to be able to develop brands of fabrics that can be applied to various sectors of the fashion industry, many will benefit both economically, socially and ultimately environmentally if using the correct fibres and processing methods. Innovation to develop a sustainable fibre into a textile that is inherently Kenyan and can be processed to varying qualities is one of the most effective ways in which to grow the local industry. Many have called for the creation of mass-market fashion lines to serve the general population however this would create far more problems than it seeks to solve. From a cultural standpoint, the mass-market does not have a great sense of appeal when it comes to aesthetics. Kenyans, like the majority of people in countries within Africa, pride themselves in being unique and expressing individual identity, although ideas of the mass-market have become more apparent over time with the influx of Western culture. There is still an inherent need amongst everyone to stand out and be different. This is also evident with the popularity of Mitumba (imported secondhand clothing), which is brought in and sold through marketplaces, and is unique and individual, for the most part. Ideas of mass-market are more prominent now with the items brought into exhibition stalls and low-end fashion retailers. However, the tailor will always remain a key part of communities around Kenya. Thus, the development of a textile that can be rolled out in a mass-market way will likely be much more effective. Allowing people to express their individual identities whilst serving to look at purchasing nearer to home and in smaller ecosystems thus serving to regenerate at a localised level. Altogether, it is clear that there is a need for the creation of support systems for the SMEs and MMEs working within the Textile and Apparel Industry in Kenya. This is in terms of education and training, knowledge sharing, financing and lobbying. It is undeniable that there is a lot of development needed in terms of skills and training as well as knowledge and understanding when it comes to the processing of alternative fibres. Thus, it is vital to source foreign expertise in order to

develop the local industry. This is in the forms of study tours in places like India where cottage industries and alternative fibres are flourishing, as well as bringing in industry experts to train people and creating programmes with which people working in the cottage industries locally can go on courses abroad. When looking at the context of sustainable fibres, and the use of alternative fibres to generate a sustainable industry, it is also essential to be aware of the global climate and the politics surrounding sustainable fashion and fashion in general. This research has shown that there are several fibres that can be considered both sustainable or extremely harmful in the general discourse, however little is expanded on when it comes to the details. A fibre such as bamboo generates a lot of attention and credibility in the sustainable space, with designers flocking to it as a sustainable alternative as well as industry professionals highlighting its benefits. However, when looking at the intricacies of the fibre and its processing into textile, the harmful effects cannot be ignored. Although as a fibre it is great for the human body and as a plant it creates incredible benefits for the soil, the process to turn it into a textile currently requires the use of heavy chemicals which are harmful to the environment and human life. Thus, it becomes difficult to claim it as a sustainable fibre. On the other hand, cotton is a fibre that has come under a large amount of scrutiny over its harmful effects. However, when talking about this, the true issues must be highlighted. Cotton when grown on an industrial scale in plantations is extremely harmful as it requires large amounts of irrigation. Irrigation is the process in which all the large amounts of water that is needed for the development of cotton textile is used. Furthermore, the working conditions under which many are placed are unethical. Rain-fed cotton, which tends to dominate the cotton plants in Africa, however, does not hold the same negative effects. Firstly, being rain-fed, it does not require irrigation, and thus the only water used in its processing is in dyeing. Secondly, it is often grown by subsistence farmers in rotation with other crops and thus serves as supplementary income for many. Consequently, the yields gained from rain-fed cotton are not nearly as high as industrially farmed cotton,

as they are subject to changing weather patterns and are not grown at as large a scale. However, given that over consumption and over production are two of the factors that have generated such a large proportion of the harmful effects that the fashion industry has created in the world, a shift to mainly or solely using rain-fed cotton is a tangible solution when looking to create a more sustainable industry. The promotion and expansion of silk farming would be very beneficial to the industry. Apart from its textile benefits, its capabilities as a nutritional supplement as well as fertiliser are undeniable. Bast fibre plants too pose great potential within the industry. With minimal inputs, plants such as nettles, flax and hemp all have the opportunity to generate multiple positive effects. Through the creation of new employment in the processing, the regeneration of soil, and ability to act as supplementary income to many farmers. These crops would generate benefits that reach far beyond the textile and apparel sector in Kenya. When looking at the current state of the textile and apparel sector in Kenya, it is furthermore vital to highlight the prevalence of EPZ’s. Many high-quality products are being made there however the majority of it is exported. There are several local designers who are creating niche, luxury products however these too mostly serve the export market. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that a sizable local market for these goods simply does not exist. In looking to generate a more sustainable industry, there is a need for the sensitisation of the public on sustainability as well as the creation of a local market for Made in Kenya products. The creation of a local market for Made in Kenya products will involve sensitising the population to buying locally produced products and changing the



perception of cheaper being better or anything not produced locally being better. These efforts can be supplemented through the creation of certification systems that serve to validate locally made products and assure certain levels of quality are consistently upheld. This will also aid many cottage industries and producer groups who face the challenge of not being able to gain global certification due to constraints posed by price amongst much more.

It is also essential to be aware of the global climate and the politics surrounding sustainable fashion

The key policy recommendations for stimulating the sustainable textile industry in the country are important in spearheading employment opportunities and industry development in the textile and apparel sector. The development of a sustainable textile strategy that addresses a regulatory framework, skills development, standards certification and testing, linkages to existing markets and public and private dialogue are key in the advancement of the textile industry of the country. Furthermore, Developing creative campaigns and policies that nurture the Made in Kenya of Buy Kenya Build Kenya and Fashion Revolution’s “Who made my clothes?” initiative is important in changing the consumer mind-set in the ownership of locally made products. Furthermore, a comprehensive approach that tackles the costs of production and allows for the increase in industry competitiveness both locally and internationally is vital. Developing a policy that addresses the major factors for improved production and trade in sustainable textiles should include improved access to inputs, access to modern technology and machinery, access to financial partnerships, flexible utility tariffs, access to industrial zones and parks and skills development for labour productivity. Improving the quality of Kenya’s textiles is crucial in competing with regional and international markets. For that reason, creating a policy that aims to highlight Kenya’s sustainable textiles for their quality, reliability and durability through improved standards and certification is a key investment for the industry’s development. Supporting policies that develop backward linkages in the supply value chain is fundamental in boosting the local economy and especially Cottage Industries.

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.