By Emmanuel Omona PaOkech
As the country grapples with a gloomy economy, a group of youth in Gulu town who at first experienced the pangs of joblessness has come out with an ingenious way of making money from old car tyres.
The Gulu youth group in town recycles used tyres into sandals commonly referred to as War- Motoka in Luo, and Lugabire in Luganda.
Mark Ocan 50, one of the youth has been recycling used tyres for over 20 years now.
Ocan said that he begun recycling the old tyres since 1995 when he took refuge in Gulu town during the time when the LRA insurgency tense.
Ocan could no longer bear the brutality orchestrated by fighters of the Lord’s Resistance Army. So, he moved to Gulu and joined the shoe-makers.
Ocan said that the idea was introduced by the Karimojong men who were living in Gulu town.
“At that time it was only the Karimojong men and most of the Acholis in Gulu were engaged in Agriculture and other activities”, Ocan said.
Ocan added that, “I can only remember the name of the Karimojong man who was well known for recycling used tyres, his name was Kalang”.
“I receive between 10 and 20 clients every day. With each pair of sandals going for about shs 4,000, you can imagine the kind of money I make,” says Ocan as he makes sandals.
Paul Onyegiu, the chairman of the Otok Youth Group, which unites the shoe-makers, says the association has over 100 members who are mainly youth.
He says the association has calmed the district of the burden of unemployment and hooligan.
However they face a number of challenges. “We have so many sharp things here, so every time we get accidents while cutting a tyre”, Onyegiu explained.
He also noted that some times the youth becomes idle when the old tyres are not in the market this makes them roam around to look for used tyres”.
“Sometimes back, there were a lot of hooliganism in the group and we are still trying to eliminate it through many ways”, Onyegiu explained.
He said that as one of the ways to instill discipline in the Association, they have decided to give a fine to any member who fights while at work.
“For that matter, anybody who fights is fined sh100, 000,” he said.
The money goes to the coffers of the association, whose members also contribute sh30,000 every month.
“This money is used for treating our members in case of a serious accident during work or illness. We also transport bodies of our colleagues in case of death,” Onyegiu explains.
Another challenge the group is facing is space to store their raw materials.
Because of the big number of members in the Association, they have since failed to get a store and each member keeps their raw material alone.
Onyegiu is planning to link the Otok Youth Association to micro-finance organizations so that they can get more funds to expand their businesses since they are capable of earning a living every day.