fish leather

Fish Leather



skin process waste (2)
ton landfill entrepreneur
fillet product valuable
pile leather opportunity
huge tannery lie/lay/lain
idle trial (2) challenge
local provide livelihood
perch plentiful stock (2)
dump expand founder (2)
slum hazard decompose
attract maggot adjacent
spread disease throw/threw/thrown
ash rodent abundance
avert papaya environmentally friendly
effect end up leaf/leaves
affect lethal innovative
harm loosen scale (2)
soft benefit range (2)
acid tan (2) dry/dried/dried
hurdle believe major (2)
pair trouble potential
safari despise customer
sandal turnover handle (3)
unique durable apply (2)
doubt protect capacity
bulk convert all the time
skilled organic doorstep (2)
thick facility grow/grew/grown
citrus investor find/found/found






Skins from fish factories around Lake Victoria end up as waste on landfills or in the lake itself — one-hundred-and-fifty thousand (150,000) tons per year.

Green entrepreneur, Newton saw potential in these dumped fish skins, and is turning them into valuable leather.

Newton Owino, Founder of Fish Leather Tannery: “I saw an opportunity in Kisomo. I saw huge piles of fish skin lying idle, as if they had no value. So I thought of really going and giving it a trial to see if I could convert this into money.”

The lake provides a livelihood for local communities. It’s home to plentiful stocks of Nile perch and catfish. In a month, 1.5 tons of their thick skins end up in Newton’s fish leather factory. He collects the waste directly from fish filleting plants.

Newton Owino, Founder of Fish Leather Tannery: “As this skin decomposes, it produces a bad smell, and it is also a health hazard to the environment. Now these industries are adjacent to one of the biggest slums in Kisumu. That is a Bunga slum, just next to here.

So as they were throwing this into the environment. The population that are living in the Bunga slums were really in danger.”

Decomposing fish attracts flies, maggots and disease-spreading rodents. Newton uses organic ash solutions to avert bacterial processes on fish skin. It took him two years to find an environmentally friendly product that’s made of banana, papaya and bean leaves.

Newton Owino, Founder of Fish Leather Tannery: “Having known the effects of chemicals used in tanning, they are very lethal, some them causing death. So with my innovative ideas, I thought of looking for local plants that could help me tan fish skin into leather without harming the environment.”

His tanning technique also helps to loosen the scales, which are then sold, and used to make a range of other products. The soft skins are washed with organic acid from citrus plants before they are dried and tanned in Newton’s factory, the first of its kind in Kenya.

Newton Owino, Founder of Fish Leather Tannery: “Most people could not believe that fish could produce leather. So that was one major hurdle. So even if you try to market it, people still have doubts.”

The most popular fish leather products are shoes. Last year, Newton’s professional shoemakers made almost three-thousand (3,000) pairs of fish leather sandals and safari boots for local and international customers. Factory turnover was almost a hundred-and-fifty thousand US dollars.

Judith Oloo, Fish Leather Customer: “Their quality is excellent. In I used to see fish shoes, but I was kind of despising it. I was wondering what kind of shoes this was.

But today, now that I’ve handled it, I’ve even ordered mine, because I’ve seen that the quality is good. It is durable, and it just looks unique.”

The same applies to these jackets. They’re in demand in Africa, and also in Europe because they protect so well against the cold and do not smell of fish.

Demand isn’t a problem, but Newton Owino has trouble finding skilled workers.

Newton Owino, Founder of Fish Leather Tannery: “The other challenge is actually bulk production. Demand is increasing all the time. And our capacity is a little bit low, so at times we are not really able to meet the demand with the fish, the fish leather and the products.”

There’s an abundance of fish here. Newton has all he needs for his green tanning business on his doorstep. He now wants to expand his facility to meet the growing demand. If he finds investors, it could help to build a bigger fish leather industry, in the process benefitting the environment and creating more jobs.

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1. Originally, fish were caught for their skins. True or false?

2. Are the heaps and mounds of fish skins good, bad or neither for people and the environment? Did they affect rich and middle-class neighborhoods? How were they bad?

3. Newton’s tannery uses industrial chemicals to tan the fish skins. Is this right or wrong? Why does he use local vegetation? Which plants does he mention?

4. Are clothes made from fish leather part of the traditional culture in Kenya?

5. What are some of the products made from fish leather?

6. There is a great market potential. Is this correct or incorrect?

7. Does Newton have trouble finding customers for his products? What is his main challenge?


A. Are leather products popular? Give examples of leather products. What are they made of? Where do they come from?

B. Do you think fish leather shoes and jackets could become popular in your city?

C. What will happen in the future?

D. How could Newton increase sales and turnover?

E. Are there local products that have market potential?

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