Taita-Taveta County has an enduring tradition of producing handcrafted textiles, especially bead works and hand-woven sisal baskets.
Loved for its beauty, uniqueness and variety, the Taita basket has remained a prime choice for individuals with a taste for locally made products.
The growing global and local demand for fine hand-woven baskets has made more than 2,000 women weavers in the county to come together to make and sell their products, locally known as vidasi.
Two decades ago, the women started making the neatly woven baskets together after they found it difficult to find customers individually.
The women, most of whom are middle-aged to elderly, have now formed regional 52 groups.
Coming together has occasioned a shift in perspective that has led to a better standard of living for the women. Weaving and selling these unique baskets gives the women and their families an income to sustain their families.
Taita Taveta Basketweavers chairperson Hilda Mwawana, who started weaving baskets two decades ago, said the baskets give them income to feed their families and pay school fees for their children.
"We now perceive basket weaving as a business so we strive to meet international standards," she said.
Apart from supporting their families, they have made an impact in the community.
They also run a table-banking project, which recently received a boost of Sh100,000 from Governor Granton Samboja.
Ms Mwawana said they had purchased a piece of land in Kasigau area, where they are planning to construct a shop that will also serve as a store for their products.
The baskets retail at between Sh500 and Sh1,200, depending on the size, design and embroidery techniques used on the product.
The groups sell more than 20,000 pieces annually, which fetches them more than Sh2 million.
Apart from the monthly orders they get from Wildlife Works, they recently received an order for 2,000 pieces from Mazido, a non-governmental organisation that deals with wildlife conservation and community development. Their baskets are sold in Belgium and Germany.
"When we started out, we would do it during our leisure time. When we started earning from it, we decided to make it a full-time job," she said.
The groups are planning to market their baskets as cultural tourism products in the hotels dotting the coast region.
The women make different types of baskets, which can be used for household purposes such as carrying things, storing grains, laundry baskets or even as decorations.
They are particularly targeting guests from around the world who visit Tsavo National Park.
Most of the weavers purchase their sisal from nearby estates including Teita Sisal Estate, which is one of the largest in the world.
Governor Samboja recently donated sisal fibres to enhance the quality of their products.
The county government, through the department of trade, has also set aside two days every week where the traders will showcase their products at the Voi town market.
Apart from the market days, the traders will be holding a monthly show in Voi town where weavers from across the county will showcase their baskets.
Ms Janet Munaa, one of the weavers, said their trade could be bolstered to raise incomes and create employment opportunities for rural women.
"Our lives have changed because we started earning and changing our lives and the community around us," she said.
County Trade executive Vumi Ringo said basket-making can play a huge role in cultural tourism and improvement of rural livelihoods in the area, where poverty levels are still high.
"We are supporting the traders because it’s part of our mandate," she said.