Hides and Skins Production Taken to New Heights in Darfur
Darfur’s poorest hides and skins producers are getting an opportunity to benefit from the growing demand of finished leather products, and unfinished skins with a new UNDP project designed to improve production techniques and economic returns of leather production.
Globally, trade in hides and skins, and semi-processed tanned leather goods are lucrative business. Domestically, and given Sudan’s huge wealth of animal resources, the tannery and leather production has been referred to as one of the few important “pockets of growth” especially in areas like Darfur. Its advantage lies in it’s potential of being a valuable source of income, thus successful development of the sector could help reduce poverty. Moreover, as a labour- intensive industry, it is an important source of employment opportunities which is badly needed in war affected areas such as Darfur.
The Hides and Skins Value Chain is part of the “Strengthening Value Chain Commodities for Vulnerable Communities Project”, which is within the Darfur Livelihoods Programme. It is one value chain amongst four under the same project, the other commodities are hibiscus, honey and groundnuts. The Darfur Value Chain development projects launched in 2011 with hibiscus production in North Darfur and will run throughout December 2014.
Currently, the Hides and Skins project runs with an initial funding of $I million (One million US dollars) from the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The current funding from OFDA runs through August 2014, but the project plans to attract additional funding and is thus a long term early recovery endeavour.
By revitalizing the hides and skins businesses through targeting of 1,000 leather producers in El Geneina, West Darfur, the industry is likely to see a new spring.
Hussien Guma from Geneina, is a shoe maker and among the beneficiaries who has been trained by the project. He has made shoes for many years, but has never been able to increase his production. “Traditional tools are not effective,” he explains. “After I received support from UNDP, the quality of my work, as well as productivity, improved significantly.” Together with fellow colleagues, he therefore decided to establish a producers association, with support from UNDP, to get access to micro credit and further expand his business.
According to a UNDP Producers Survey conducted in 2011, the industry faces a number of obstacles that impeded its growth in the past such as unsupportive policies, inadequate access to finance, lack of tools and modern technology. Many producers have also called for further skills upgrading opportunities to diversify their production.
The survey also reveals the wide gap between resources and production, but exposes the potential of the industry. Therefore, the project, which is implemented in partnership with the State Ministry of Animal Resources in West Darfur, has provided the targeted producers in Geneina with tools and training in new production methods. The skills upgrading will continue throughout the project cycle to ensure the producers learn a wide range of techniques. The producers have also been organized in user associations and will be provided access to micro credit.
In addition to the survey and as part of UNDP’s analytical and advisory role , the project has also conducted an intense Hides and Skins Value Chain Analysis (VCA) which is expected to provide, after completion, substantive directions on subsectors within the industry for expansion and large-scale production. The VCA will also provide a forecast of the potential returns over time.
Howa Adam, a female headed household and one of the project’s beneficiaries who used to make wallets and bags and sell them in the local market said “I had to cultivate millet and groundnuts during the rainy season because the wallet and bag making was not enough to keep my family alive,” In the training, she says “I learnt many new things, particularly about design and colouring”. She has now changed the design of her products and the following increase in demand has made it possible for her to increase the price. She is currently a full time hides and skins producer and participates actively in the women association, which was newly established.