Afrikable - Cooperación para el desarrollo en Africa




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Manufacturing of the sandals

The women taking part in the Afrikable’s project had never made shoes. Neither shoes nor purses, they didn’t even know how to use a ruler before joining the project. Their lives were limited to collecting water, chopping wood and taking care of their families; nothing related to the manufacturing of handmade products subject to be sold in the international market.


The development of a high quality footwear collection meeting the Fair Trade standards, under these premises and with extremely basic tools, shows just which kind of challenge we have faced. Thanks to the efforts of the women and their capacity for learning, the trust of Alma en Pena and the support of many people who accompanied us along this challenge, the project became a reality.


In order to enhance even more the quality of the footwear, to optimize the materials and improve the production techniques, during fall 2015 Alma en Pena sent Jorge Mañez, on the field, a footwear modeller and pattern-maker with wide experience in the footwear field. Jorge came as a volunteer and worked hand in hand with the project’s women. He taught them new techniques and optimized the few resources we count with. He got a very high-quality collection through, fully handmade, with minimum resources.


"I currently work as a modeller for a company from Elda (Alicante, Spain) and count with all advances and new technologies available in the market, which eases a lot the manufacturing of shoes. Afrikable’s women deserve great credit, as they make shoes with extremely limited resources. It is absolute handicraft… these sandals are priceless.”
Jorge Mañez

We hereafter tell how the ALMA EN PENA sandals by AFRIKABLE are made.

Alma en Pena sends us a design on paper with which we study how viable it is to produce the sandal. A first sample is produced and, if viable, the definite patterns are made in Spain and sent afterwards to Lamu. There is one pattern for each model and size, both for the top (the upper part, where the sandal’s ornaments are) and the sole (insole).


First step in the production of the sandal is the preparation of the leather. The different leather parts must be dyed and treated with a polish that softens and hydrates it. Right after, most suitable pieces for each kind of top and sole are selected. Leather pieces are not uniform so a manual selection must be made in order to decide which parts will be used for the sole (must be firmer and more resistant) and which for the top (softer and more flexible parts, so the ornaments can be easily sewed and it is not rigid once worn).


Once the leather pieces have been selected, the patterns of the different parts of the sandals are drawn one by one. Such drawings include the master lines of the top’s design in order to ease the sewing of the beads. That way, women know where the circles and lines of the design are placed. Each piece is cut by hand.


Women sew the top parts by hand and use punches to make holes where the thread with the beads will be later guided through. Beads are linked together one by one manually, following the patterns laid out in Spain. The manufacturing of a top part may take from hours to even days, depending on the complexity and size of the pattern. Each woman has a different sewing style, so each pair is a small, unique and unrepeatable piece of art.


After completing the sewing of the beads, the leather lining must be glued. For the top and sole parts we use cow leather, which is more resistant. However, for the lining part we use goat leather, very soft and comfortable. As could not be otherwise, this is also a manual process in which lining pieces must be cut again and adjusted to the sewed pattern.


The sole of the sandal consist of three elements: the leather insole in contact with the foot, the gum sole in contact with the floor and a spongy wedge-shaped element placed in the heel’s part, in between the other two components, to make the footstep more comfortable. A backstitch is sewed to the leather insole all along its perimeter in order to make it more resistant and give it a better finish. Afterwards, they are marked with the corresponding size number and the logo of Alma en Pena by Afrikable. All those components must be drawn and cut by hand, but this is especially difficult because soles and insoles are very tough and the tools to cut them are just scissors.


Everything is then ready to put together the elements and assemble the sandal, which is done on a one-by-one basis because the last is different depending on the kind of shoe to be assembled. This process is very complex, as the final comfort and good fitting depends on it. Once the sandal has already been placed in the last, a very strong glue is applied and it is let to dry for a while.


Once ready, sole and sponge are glued and the sandal is sanded all over its outline. When applicable due to the model, strips and buckles are placed so the only thing left to do is to clean and polish it. After several quality controls at different stages of the process, sandals are ready to be packed and sent to Spain, where they will be distributed to shops worldwide!


The transport of the sandals is not easy either. They leave Lamu on a boat and arrive to Mokowe, the closest city on the continental part of the country. From there to Mombasa they go on a truck and afterwards by plane or boat to Madrid, depending on the shipment. Anyway, as we are in Lamu, the way from our premises to the island’s pier is covered following traditional methods, as expected ☺


Now you know how much effort and love there is behind each pair of sandals. If you want to have a look at our new 2016 spring-summer collection, it is already available at Alma en Pena’s online shop. Don’t miss it!



Translator: Ara Calavia


Afrikable is a Spanish charitable organisation, registered in the National Register of Associations under number 1/1/594088 and in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development (AECID)'s Register of Non-Governmental Organisations under number 2033.


In Kenya our association is called Afrika Able Organization and is registered with Kenya's NGO Coordination Board under number 10976.


  • Lamu, Kenia.
    Madrid, Spain
  • +34 605 722 162