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Newton Owino, the guy building a business selling fish leather products

39-year-old Newton Owino, separates fish skins from the rest of the waste, then turns them to make a kind of leather used to manufacture handbags, wallets, shoes, hats and jackets.

He has proved quite the innovative businessman with his fish leather.

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Newton Owino, an industrial chemist and entrepreneur, is also the founder of a fish leather tannery in Kisumu.

In Kisumu, the city where grilled tilapia and Nile perch are a delicacy, Owino saw opportunity in the leftovers.

Reportedly, about 150,000 tonnes of fish waste is produced every year and 80% of it is dumped.

Owino thought of an innovative way to make use of them.

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Mr. Owino applied his knowledge in industrial chemistry to tan and treat the fish skin for usable leather.

With his employees, he collects the fish skin directly from the filleting companies or has them sent over.

Furthermore, excess flesh and bone is scraped off the fish and dried for 24 hours.

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Afterwards, the dried skin is treated.

A mixture of purely natural acids such as avocado and other citruses and local herbs is used for tanning the skin.

Similarly,  this process makes the skin softer, darker and less smelly, after which, it’s descaled, thoroughly dried and becomes workable leather, thus ready for use.

Meanwhile, Newton’s tannery also makes accessories and items made from leather.

Male designers and fashion consultants putting Kenya on the world map

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While there are other tanneries in town, Owino’s is the only one specialising in fish leather.

He says he uses a chemical-free tanning process for his unique products.

Above all, Newton hopes to expand his business with a manufacturing school and training facility for prospective fish tanners.

Newton Owino is proof of the saying, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ but in this case one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.

Here’s part of his interview with Aljazeera.


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