Tharaka region is categorized as a semi-arid area in Kenya receiving less than 500mm of rainfall annually. It is characterized by prolonged dry periods and recurrent drought situations. This state leads to perennial shortage of food and water for people and animals as well as fodder shortage for livestock.
Sometimes, the problem becomes severe, causing dire consequences such as adverse malnutrition and even death of animals. During these droughts, communities are at their lowest in terms of income and thus have less or nothing to allocate to donkeys and other animals. This therefore require communities to adopt proper coping mechanism to mitigate the effect.
Basketry is one of the key activity practiced in Tharaka. For generations, particularly women in the region have practiced basketry as a social- cultural activity with less attention to generating incomes.
Currently, there is more focus on promoting basketry as business to help Tharaka community diversify their income sources. KENDAT through the Heshimu Punda Program works with women in Tharaka to support in promoting basketry as business, creating the necessary market linkages and facilitating value addition and marketing. This is aimed at taking advantage of the locally available human capacity and local materials coupled with the increasing global demand for woven baskets and other sisal products by local and international tourists
Currently, basketry gives very little returns to the community as they mainly rely on the local market. This is made worse by brokers who exploit these communities by purchasing cheaply and selling at a profit elsewhere. This initiative organizes the process of production, value addition and marketing so that the community gets optimal returns.