Artisans must Adapt to Reach New Markets

"Just three years ago, Elizabeth Njeri was scraping by as a subsistence farmer and part-time potter in Kenya’s central highlands. Then opportunity struck. As she was peddling her wares one day at a local market, a visiting trader placed a large order for earthenware cooking stoves. As more deals followed, Njeri and 11 other women in Kiriani village began gathering daily to mix clay, “throw” pots and stoves, and fire them in an open-flame kiln. Njeri, a wife and mother of three, marvels at her good fortune. “Now I have a cow, a water tank, and a kiln of my own,” she says with a radiant smile. “I have arrived.” Like many Kenyan artisans, however, Njeri still faces some daunting challenges. The cost of clay, firewood, and other materials keeps rising. The local market is getting saturated, leaving neat stacks of inventory to crowd her family compound. And despite her creative flair, Njeri has not taken the initiative to develop new products or to seek out new buyers in Nairobi or beyond."