APT Action on Poverty

Rights and Livelihoods for Soapstone Workers in Kenya

Many rural households in Gucho district of Kenya depend for their livelihoods upon the soapstone handicraft industry. This project will increase incomes and improve safety and productivity of 200 miners, 2,000 carvers and 10,000 finishers, the majority of whom are women working in their homes.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (290836)




  • Education/Training/EmploymentEducation/Training/Employment


  • Women & GirlsWomen & Girls
  • Young People (18-30)Young People (18-30)
  • OtherOther



Gucha – one of the poorest districts - is the centre of the soapstone mining and carving industry in Kenya, producing popular handicraft products for tourists and export. The industry directly supports around 35,000 people, including employees and piece-rate workers of mining and carving businesses and co-operatives, as well as traders and exporters. Although the work provides much needed income for families (60% of the finishing work is done by women in their rural homes) conditions of work are not good – wages are low; equipment inappropriate; poor safety standards, facilities and no insurance or compensation when accidents occur; very little skills training available The growing fair trade craft market offers more lucrative opportunities to expand the sector provided production can meet the exacting standards required for workers conditions and remuneration. This project will work with representative groups from each part of the production and marketing chain, the government regulators and UK craft retailers, to improve production and sales levels, working conditions, and achieve fair trade status by: • Strengthening organised groups of workers to represent their concerns and negotiate for improved services and resources from private and public bodies • Raising awareness of safe and fair regulations • Improving safety in the workplaces through equipment , practices and skills training • Increasing productivity through efficient production processes This project will improve the incomes and working conditions of over 12,000 of the poorer workers; 200 miners, 2,000 carvers and 10,000 finishers. The total budget for this three and a half year project is just over £500,000. The Department for International Development is the major funder but we still need to raise £20,000 from other sources towards this project.