NAIROBI – Victoria Foods, a fish processing company operating from Lake Turkana, in northern Kenya, is making niche-market goods with leather from Nile Perch skin. The Nile perch is a common fresh water fish of economic and food importance in East Africa.

Africa is estimated to lose up to 40 per cent of harvested fish as result of poor possessing and preservation methods. In East Africa, Nile perch fish processing generates solid and liquid waste, which pollute the environment. Victoria Food processes fillets and other fish by products. It was accumulating fish skins from its operation that had to be dispose of properly and decided on value adding them into fine leather.

“We were generating a lot of fish waste from the factory where we processing about ten tonnes of fish a month and were producing a lot of skins and saw an opportunity to add value to the waste product,” says Ira Kidemu, Director, Leather Production at Victoria Foods. The company makes handbags, shoes, belts and wallets for export into niche markets in Europe.

“We export to London and Paris where we have enjoyed good sales,” Kidemu said. “Our leather has a bold character and each of our products is distinctive. We are looking into entering the automotive market, making leather for vehicle interiors.”

A small ladies handbag made from fish leather sells for a minimum 1,169 dollars (120 000 KES).