By Devika Jyothi
A growing global interest in sustainable lifestyles and the appeal of earthy colours is taking the world of textiles and fashion back to the tradition of natural dyed fabrics. The practise of natural dyeing is a safe, hazard-free and sustainable process of colouring textile products. Africa’s rich and diverse natural resources provides its artisans opportunities to produce eco-friendly textile for the niche market of high-value, natural and sustainable products.
For the past four years, SITA has been working to strengthen the handloom value chain in East Africa through knowledge and technology transfer from India. As India has a strong tradition in natural dyeing of handcrafted textiles,
SITA has been trying to introduce Indian techniques to East African artisans and trainers. In the past, SITA has supported two trainings for East African trainers and artisans on natural dyes – the first one in Hyderabad, India and the second one in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Textile and Fashion Technology (EiTEX), Bahir Dar University.
From 4-8 February 2019, SITA facilitated a third training in Eldoret, Kenya on natural dyes for textiles in collaboration with the Department of Manufacturing Industrial and Textile Engineering of Moi University. Moi University developed a five-day curriculum for artisans with a strong interest and beginner-level experience in natural dyes for textiles. SITA provided Moi University with the relevant support and equipment to help institutionalise the training.
Eighteen participants from Kenya and Uganda took part in the programme, 13 of whom were women. The training covered the basics of natural dyeing, enabling the participants to identify, grow and use locally abundant flora to develop a variety of natural dyes.
Participants were given a solid foundation in the core skills necessary to practise natural fabric dyeing – either as a supplier of natural dyes or as handloom weavers offering natural dyed products. Professor Josphat Igadwa Mwasiagi, Associate Professor, Department of Manufacturing, Industrial and Textile Engineering, Moi University, and Mr. John Wakhungu Khafafa, Senior Technologist, Department of Manufacturing, Industrial and Textile Engineering, Moi University were the lead facilitators of the programme.
‘We appreciate your efforts and your endeavours and ask for the chance for refresher courses, further training in Natural Dyes-national and international whenever the opportunity comes up,’ said Ms. Mariam Nambirige, a tailor at TEXFAD and a teacher in Uganda.
‘Thank you for this training. I needed it. It has improved not just my knowledge base but my networks as well,’ added Ms. Elizabeth Akoth Otieno, Spinner at Cream Kenya in Kisumo, Kenya.
On the last day of the training, the participants made a field visit to a Moi University facility for Research, Training and Development, the Rivatex factory in Eldoret. During the tour of the vertically integrated textile factory, they learnt about the processes that convert cotton lint to finished fabric. Participants were particularly interested in the use of natural dyes in the industrial dyeing process.
The training concluded with a closing ceremony where participants received certificates attesting to their successful completion of the course. Participants also exhibited their finished products, which they had produced utilising dyeing techniques learnt during the course.
‘Thank you SITA and Moi University for making this happen after a long push. Thank you for the impact of the dyeing knowledge we have achieved which will assist the Kenya Handweavers Cooperative,’ said Ms. Roselyn Museiga- Chairperson of Kenya Handweavers Cooperative.
Moi University has institutionalized the five-day course on Natural Dyes for Textiles for hand-weavers and textile institutions as its very first short course for the cottage industry. Following the training in Eldoret, Moi University’s Africa Centre for Excellence (ACE-II) in Phytochemicals, Textiles and Renewable Energy (PTRE) will take this training forward as an outreach activity to the cottage industry.
‘Moi University welcomed the Natural Dyes for Textile course as a way of offering practical solutions to real problems in the industry,’ observed Professor Igadwa.
‘As a university, Moi University has realised that it needs to move into industry and society at large to offer solutions to real life problems. Like in the case of Natural Dyes for Textile, the hand-weavers had been looking for a training that can enable them to dye yarn and fabrics using natural dyes enabling them to connect to emerging markets. Attempts to use natural dyes by hand-weavers were limited due to a lack of knowledge in dyeing. The Natural Dyes for Textiles course was a chance for Moi University to showcase its expertise while providing solutions. It is hoped that the course will be picked up by other stakeholders and will lead to improved quality of textile products,’ he added.