by Tafara Mugwara
HARARE, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- While the proper disposal of old car tires remain a big headache for solid waste management authorities in Zimbabwe, an enterprising man is running a footwear business making affordable shoes from used car tires.
Luckmore Chitukutuku is one of the 160 members of "Two-Kuzvitonga Leatherworks" in Mbare, a high-density township south of downtown Harare, eking a living from making shoes using recycled materials.
While making a comfortable shoe from old car tires might sound unrealistic to many, from the way Chitukutuku does it the process seems quite simple. The whole process of making a pair takes less than an hour.
Chitukutuku said sandals made of old tires are not only affordable but are highly resistant to wear, and have an excellent grip on any type of surface. Because of their durability, the sandals prove to be very useful in rural areas where people usually walk long distances over uneven terrain.
"Most of the orders come from people from rural areas," Chitukutuku told Xinhua. "And they need them when cultivating the land, moving around during hot summers, because air can easily circulate, thorns won't be able to penetrate the sole, and they can move around easily in muddy waters, it's a shoe that you can wear in any environment."
Locally known as "manyatera", the sandals are by no means cutting edge. Chitukutuku purposely uses simple and old techniques to keep the costs down. He uses the tire sidewall for soles as well as tire inner parts to make the shoe straps.
He believes that his simple technique, affordable prices and the shoes' resistance to weather make them stick out from those from local shops.
"These shoes are different from leather shoes because they are rubber-like, they are plastic-like, they are suitable for any condition of weather, whether is summer or its the rainy season, one can wear them comfortably," he said.
He said it takes is a creative mind and perseverance to be able to produce something that no one would expect to be made from materials which are considered trash.
Besides their durability, the sandals are very affordable. Typically, a pair is priced at just 4 U.S. dollars, but for one with good bargaining skills, the price can even be lower.
Despite not receiving formal training in making shoes, the trade has allowed Chitukutuku to sustain his family.
Tapson Mbodya, spokesperson of "Two-Kuzvitonga Leatherworks", said the manufacturing of tire sandals help provide employment opportunities to many needy people in the community.
"In this cooperative, from the way we are working we have noticed that no one is crying looking for employment which means there is development happening here in accordance with government directive encouraging us to start our own businesses.
"Everyone leave this place holding something that enables him to sustain their family and enable everything to proceed smoothly," he said.
Wilbert Muvirimi, a small scale trader and a frequent visitor of the market, said his customers are satisfied by the sandals he buys at the market for resale.
"These sandals that we are buying here are of high quality, from the way I see it, and the product seems to be durable, it's affordable for us," he said.
"Two-Kuzvitonga Leatherworks" started in 1997 with the aim of providing a decent livelihood to members of the community. Of the 60 members who were the pioneers of the cooperative, 10 members have since passed away and their places have been taken by their children.
The majority of the members joined the cooperative without shoemaking skills but they picked the skill form working with others. Some members have since roped in their children so that they can work together.
While the initiative has provided cheap alternatives of footwear to low-income earners, it is also helping to solve a waste management challenge.
If not properly disposed, tires take thousands of years to decompose, and until then, they sit in massive piles with the potential to cause harm to the environment and to human health.
During the rainy season, tires also become hospitable environments for mosquitoes which results in the spread of deadly diseases such as Malaria. Enditem