Over the years TFS has supplied tools to numerous countries in the southern hemisphere. These include Ghana, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Most of the countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world.
Our work between 1984 and 2007
From 1984 to 2006 TFS was supporting groups of artisans and Vocational Training Colleges by supplying kits or boxes of tools. Throughout the years we made a few assessments and the information on target groups has improved.
In 2006 we found out that groups we were supporting required much more than just tools. One vital element that was missing is training – both for use of tools and its maintenance. For years Tools For Solidarity was thinking about the idea of providing support to the groups through establishing a centre in the country.
A new approach since 2007
In 2007 we were able to establish a sewing machine and refurbishment centre in Mwanza, Tanzania together with our partner SIDO – Small Industries Development Organisation. Instead of refurbishing sewing machines in Belfast, it’s now possible to do in Tanzania.
There are several advantages to this approach:
- Skills transfer to the country where sewing machines are used;
- Allows people to choose the type of machine they want (within a suitable price);
- Helps developing other goods and services (technical training or treadle production);
- The centre operates on a self financing basis. The tailors (mainly women) buy a sewing machine at a reasonable price and get a free week of training in design or embroidery, basic operation and maintenance and business skills.
The gained experience
So far the sewing and training centre in Mwanza has provided more than 3000 sewing machines and trained more than 1500 tailors, covering an area 1.5 times the size of Ireland.
The centre also has other significant benefits:
- The promotion and fabrication of locally made sewing machine treadle bases;
- The training of sewing machine mechanics in the area to increase maintenance;
- The centre employs three local people and provides income generation activities to indirect beneficiaries such as tailoring trainers, metal workers and mechanics.
Since then TFS works closely on a few more projects in different parts of Africa, such as Njombe and Ruvuma. In 2019 we signed a contract on the creation of The Tools Centre that will support Vocational Training Centres and/or artisans through the refurbishment of high-quality tools. More information you can find here.