This study examined woodcarving and the socio-economic implications of wood carving on household livelihoods in Wamunyu Location, Machakos County. Woodcarving has been practiced in the study area, for over a century, and it has affected the livelihoods of the majority of the people in various ways. Woodcarving plays a vital role in generating income to the households. Despite woodcarving being an important economic activity for the majority of households in the Wamunyu area of Machakos District who have practiced it for over a century and passed it on from family to family, the carving communities/ practitioners have remained in abject poverty in addition to not deriving maximum benefits from the same despite its high potential in providing safety nets for carving communities. Little is known on the socioeconomic implications of woodcarving on household livelihoods and this forms the basis of the study. The study was premised on General systems theory and Sustainable livelihood framework. Purposive and systematic random sampling was used to select a sample size of 100 woodcarvers. To achieve the objectives of the study, a survey was conducted among the woodcarvers in Wamunyu Location. Data collected was processed and analyzed using descriptive statistics with the aid of Statistical Packages for Social Sciences. From the study findings, woodcarving has huge socioeconomic benefits which can improve household livelihoods if well organized and managed. The study revealed that 41% of the respondents were between the ages of 20-29 years old with majority of them (41%) joined wooding carving at age 15-17 years. The study also revealed that 95% of the respondents were male. Wood carving is one of the major livelihood strategies employed by the inhabitants in the study area to supplement subsistence farming so as to meet basic needs such as food, health-care and education. The study shows that 62% of the respondents assert that woodcarving activity enables them to meet their basic needs. The findings also indicate that woodcarving is important in supporting households; consequently it’s a key economic activity in the study area. This goes to reinforce the fact that woodcarving is critical in supporting households in the study area and consequently its increased uptake in the area. However, there is need to support and enhance efforts to improve woodcarving in order to support more households and improve their livelihoods. Numerous problems continue to affect woodcarving negatively thus reducing the socioeconomic benefits that would be realized. The study recommends the need for all key players in the woodcarving sector to put concerted efforts to address the bottlenecks affecting the sector and in extension woodcarvers. There is need for woodcarvers to be sensitized on homegrown solutions to address problems affecting them in addition to the policy makers taking necessary remedial policy measures to enhance socio-economic impact of woodcarving on households. If the problems affecting woodcarving are conclusively addressed, huge socio-economic benefits will be realized. The study gives a number of recommendations for further research. While there is enough evidence that woodcarving is a crucial rural safety net for many livelihoods in the study area, there is need to replicate the study elsewhere. More research is also needed to systematically explore and define the needs of woodcarvers and delineate ways to eliminate income disparities in woodcarving activities. Similarly, research is needed to delineate the artisanal policies and implementation that will spur woodcarving activities to the intended levels making woodcarving more attractive and sustainable.
Prof. Dr. Bilal BİLGİN