By Devika Jyothi
“We will be the first to introduce natural dyeing in Uganda,” says David Magumba of the Textile Development Agency (TEXDA), Uganda.
David Magumba was speaking to SITA during the 6-day Orientation Workshop and Training Programme on Natural Dyeing at the Creative Dye Farm in Hyderabad, India. The programme aims to introduce natural dyes – colourants extracted from the roots, wood, leaves, flowers and fruits of plants and trees, as well as minerals –as a potential replacement for chemical dyes for dyeing textile fabrics.
TEXDA began as a Government facility with support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and funding from the Norwegian Government, under the Uganda Integrated Programme (UIP). The UIP is a Government of Uganda-UNIDO joint venture to enhance competitiveness and sustainability of Industrial Development in Uganda. Today, a self-sustaining quasi-government organisation, TEXDA serves as an important training institution that can bring innovative benefits to Uganda’s textile industry and its entrepreneurs.
The following are excerpts from a discussion with Mr. Magumba on the effectiveness of the SITA-supported training and the prospect, challenges and plans for adopting natural dyes at TEXDA.
Could you tell us about the activities of TEXDA?
TEXDA is a Centre of Excellence in Uganda where youths and unemployed men and women develop their creativity and skills in textile design and garment production. We also organize internship programmes with universities.
As a self-sustaining enterprise, we have a production facility for hand-woven fabrics, garments and home decorative items such as curtains, tablecloths, cushion covers, placemats etc. We also produce kikoys from long-strand organic cotton.
How relevant was the training programme in natural dyeing?
Very relevant and applicable. This is the first time that we were introduced to the techniques of extracting and applying natural dyes. The Creative Been training was very well organised and detailed, though the time was limited.
I have a background in Fine Arts and have been dyeing since 2000. I have tried extracting natural dyes from leaves, but could not fix the colour run- off problem. Here I have learnt these techniques and am now confident in using natural dyes.
It will benefit our business immensely. There is a huge market for natural dyed organic cotton, which we can explore. It is a high value market that yields greater profits.
So, will you be shifting to natural dyes?
Of course. I was never comfortable with the chemical dyeing process. Often we buy pre-dyed yarn to avoid the dyeing process. Natural dyes are a cost effective, environmental friendly alternative. It is good for your own heath and the environment.
What are the likely challenges and steps to address in switching?
Getting the raw material could be a challenge. However, it is economical even if we import dyestuff from India, so we will start with that.
But we have a wide-range of trees and plants that bear dyestuff, and it is important for us to develop our own source. This challenge presents much opportunity.
We will work with villagers to identify and collect raw material from dye-bearing plants and trees. We now know the technique for extracting dyestuff. The trainer, Siva Kesav Rao, and the team have agreed to set up an online communication platform, where we can consult and clarify our queries from time to time. That could be helpful in establishing effective techniques for extracting and applying nature dyes. Once we establish the technique for each colour, we could train youths and unemployed members in the community – it is a potential income generator for villagers.
TEXDA also works with women clusters on different activities along the cotton, textile and handloom value chain. We will now educate them on the comparative advantages of using natural dyes and the need to cultivate dye-bearing plants. I will also look for trainees and interns at TEXDA who are interested to work in the area and train them on natural dye extraction and application – this will spur self-employment opportunities among trained youth.
Are you currently exporting and where are the immediate markets for naturally dyed textiles?
Yes, we currently export to the US. We now have an enquiry for organic cotton from a client, who operates over 1000 outlets in the U.S. With the possibility of importing natural dyes, we could negotiate with them for natural dyed organic cotton. That will open up a huge market for us.
Going forward, what additional support will you need from SITA?
I am very happy to be part of this programme. I think TEXDA will be the first to introduce natural dyes in Uganda commercially. We would need continuation programmes that will equip us to develop our full range of natural dyes.
I am sure we will get to see good results soon.