In Summary
  • Shiamwama has managed to build a modern house and educate his children through money earned from pottery.
  • A small cooking pot goes for Sh100 while a flower vase costs between Sh300 and Sh600. The cheapest energy-saving stoves made from the special type of clay are sold for Sh200.

An ordinary day at Ilesi market is usually forlorn, except for the presence of boda-boda operators waiting in the searing sun to pick up passengers heading to the nearby Khayega market.

The tiny Ilesi market, on the busy Kakamega-Kisumu road, is dotted with makeshift kiosks. A short distance from the market stands the chief’s office and an administration police camp.

Along the road, however, an array of beautiful pots and other items made from clay and decorated in colourful styles are displayed, easily attracting potential buyers, often travellers and tourists.

Ilesi village in Kakamega East Sub-County has carved a niche as the home of pottery in western Kenya.

ECONOMY

Pottery may sound mundane for families who have embraced modern ways of life, but villagers in Ilesi are reaping from their creativity and hard work.

From distant swamps where they harvest the raw material, the potters have the skill to convert clay into cash by making and selling traditional water pots, bowls, flower vases and others. Besides pottery, villagers engage in subsistence farming for a livelihood.

Motorists driving on the road are assured to catch a glimpse of assorted pottery, and many stop by to buy one or two of the assortments, thereby boosting the economic position of the potters.

Further, the demand for earthenware in Uganda and Tanzania has triggered a frenzy of activities among villagers, who want to exploit the opportunity to improve their lives.

DEMAND

One such man is Mzee Jacob Mate Shiamwama, 57. He started making pottery in 1963, when he was just 13 years old, and has never looked back.

Mr Shiamwama is highly respected for his expertise. From selling pots on the roadside, he has managed to build a modern house and connect electricity to it.

He has also educated his four children all the way to college using money earned from the business.

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