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Light it locally

2021-11-17  Maihapa Ndjavera

Light it locally
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Omuriro Manufacturing CC based in Omaruru produces firelighters as it exploits the opportunity to utilise the remnants left between the braai/fireplace wood and bush-feeding categories to develop a natural firelighter.

Theyare utilising a leftover category after harvesting invader bush for charcoal /firewood (larger pieces) and bush-feed for animals (smallest pieces). This unutilised category of invader bush harvesting is the main raw material for the production of Omuriro firelighters.

“Given the part that the manufacturing of these firelighters plays in the total value-chain, it also contributes to the combatting of invader bush and the eventual restoration of rangelands to increase the carrying capacity in livestock production areas. Apart from this, the manufacturing of Omuriro also contributes towards a socio-economic ripple effect with the upliftment of especially rural women involved in the production process,” explained Wallie Roux, the company’s marketing manager.

Roux added that these firelighters are made by hand and consist only of the invader bush pieces (85%), non-toxic wax (10%) and cotton twine (5%), and no electricity or bulk water is used during the manufacturing process.

“Omuriro firelighters contain no paraffin or petroleum additives, hence no unpleasant or bad smell on the fingers after starting a fire. These lighters also do not dry out over time like the paraffin or petroleum type firelighters, therefore, they have an unlimited shelf-life. In addition, the firelighters are waterproof,” he stated.

Raw materials are collected from farms in the vicinity of Kalkfeld, Omaruru and Omatjete where invader bush harvesting is taking place. The firelighters are currently distributed mainly in Windhoek and along the coast (Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Henties Bay).

Roux said Omuriro hopes to have listings at more local retailers, albeit the process to obtain local listings is not that easy. 

Manufacturing commenced in 2017 after the main partner of Omuriro Manufacturing CC, Peter Till, won the Sanlam (Namibia) innovation works competition with his concept of a 100% natural firelighter. 

Furthermore, he revealed that at the factory, there are four full-time employees and one working half-day. There are 25 people involved in the outreach programme to manufacture additional firelighters. The outreach programme besides the transfer of skills, contributes to increased production.

According to him, the factory has an outreach programme in place to train especially women in the production of the firelighters to earn an income for themselves.

 “This programme currently focuses on the areas in and around Kalkfeld, Omaruru and Omatjete. These apprentices are supplied with the necessary knowledge, equipment and protective clothing to eventually become the skilled employees who produce the firelighters for the factory through an outsourced programme.”

Roux narrated that manufacturing in Namibia is more than just a challenge given that it is an on top production, although one can obtain the basic components locally, you still have to import at least some of your raw materials towards the final product. 

final retail price and thus your ability to compete against similar imported products. Hence, local production needs to focus on and venture into niche markets with a quality product that can compete on equal footing with similar imported products with a unique local edge. In addition, it is not always easy to list with local retailers,” indicated Roux.

Omaruru was closed down by the authorities, subsequently, distribution of the firelighters came to a halt due to Covid-19 restrictions last year. Roux said this was the first of the severe blows they had to face.

“In South Africa, the authorities recognised firelighters as an essential item during the lockdown, hence imports from South Africa continued and we lost our market share footprint against their petroleum-type firelighters. After the lockdown was lifted, we literally had to start from scratch, beginning at the factory and through the distribution channels to salvage a few clients we had left. Destination Namibia had a growing number of clients in the tourism industry. One of the results of the lockdowns and its consequences was that we lost all our clients in the tourism industry,” he said, while stating the impact of the pandemic on their operations.

2021-11-17  Maihapa Ndjavera

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