Cheboo Tabarbuch Maru, a mother of five who hails from Ziwa in Uasin Gishu is among the oldest entrepreneurs in the country.
Maru was born on January 1, 1915, in the village of Kibabet in Kapseret Constituency where she learned the art of knitting sisal ropes and making gourds popularly known as ‘sotet’ in Kalenjin language.
During her younger days, Maru, who is also a renowned herbalist in the village, practiced subsistence farming at her matrimonial home in Lelmokwo village, Nandi County, where she grew sorghum, maize, and potatoes.
Maru spends her weekdays making the gourds which she sells to earn a living.
Maru displays some of the guards which are ready for sale. [Photo/ Neiyten Too]
She notes that she takes a break from her busy schedule by resting on Sunday, which is her day of worship.
The grandmother said she ventured into the business of making gourds so as not to depend on other people for her upkeep.
She revealed that she makes over Sh56,000 per month from selling the gourds, which enables her to cater for her various needs.
Maru makes an average of two gourds in a day, which she sells at Sh1,000 each.
However, during the peak season which usually falls during the April, August and December holidays, she receives orders to prepare the gourds which are presented as gifts during wedding ceremonies, political functions, and other traditional events.
Maru making gourds at her home in Uasin Gishu. [Photo/ Neiyten Too]
“To make a beautiful gourd for sale, one requires different items such as the gourd plant, beads, cowrie shells, threads, knitting needle and treated cow and goat hide,” said Maru.
She previously used to draw the patterns on the gourds using charcoal but with time she has learned to use a pencil and metal bar.
The drawings form the blueprint of knitting the beads and the cowrie shells on the gourds.
The proud entrepreneur says she has taught her skill to over 100 residents, including her daughter and granddaughters.
Maru poses for a photo with her daughter and granddaughters. [Photo/ Neiyten Too]
Apart from making the gourds, Maru also makes decorated belts and garments for special initiation ceremonies.
“I also decorate my clients’ ears with jewelry which in our culture is a sign of readiness for marriages for both men and women,” she added.
Maru, however, expressed concerns that the business might die if not properly guarded by the younger generation.
She lamented that not many people are keen on planting gourds, which are the main raw materials for making calabashes and gourds.
“I’ve always guarded the seeds for the sake of the coming generations. A seed can produce up to 10 gourds,” she said.
Maru urges youth in the region to venture into the business, which she says will earn them good profits.