Let me first of all announce that I have decided to change the name of the Gadget and from now on I will call it the Static Flaying Frame. If no natural disaster occurs, the SFF will be on display at Meet in Africa this month in Tunis, real size, complete with chains and pulley, as well as a graphic representation of its use.

I, therefore, invite all visitors to MiA to take a look at the SFF, which I repeat may not be produced commercially other than by those local artisans who perform their job in the regions where the SFF is supposed to be installed.

Furthermore, a presentation is planned at one of the seminars at MiA to show how the SFF works and we will tell you about the experiences of these past few months. Several pictures will be shown.

Recently, after my June Limeblast, I had a rather extensive exchange of correspondence with several UN-related agencies. I must mention that ITC reacted quickly to my criticism expressed in June which they thought was undeserved. I accused them of not grabbing the opportunity to display the SFF at Meet in Africa 2002 in Tunis.

This time, ITC reacted promptly and on its own initiative contacted Esalia and CFC to find funding for the construction of one SFF in Tunis. At the same time, ITC have pledged to offer us the stand at Meet in Africa totally free of charge, including the stand building and layout to put the SFF on display.

Thanks to the intervention of Shelagh Davy, the secretary general of Cotance in Brussels, Gustavo Gonzalez Quijano decided without delay that Cotance would finance the construction of the SFF and allow me to travel to Tunis to oversee the construction. This was an exception to the rule and done in the spirit of the Cotance strategy

for Africa adopted in 1998 under Italian Presidency. Red tape was ignored and, in a matter of minutes, I was given the green light and funds were put at my disposal. We all owe the secretary general of Cotance our gratitude.

Unido in Vienna quickly followed suit and pledged their help as well, which resulted in co-funding for the Tunis SFF, plus the funding of a couple of SFFs in India, where Unido has been able to scrape the bottom of the barrel of one of their large, presently unwinding, projects. One SFF is being tested right now in Mysore, India, and the feed-back we get is rather promising.

Let me quote a few lines:

‘The following advantages were observed during the first trial:

(i) During pulling, about 1ft vertical length of hide was pulled within one minute. In the normal flaying using knives, the duration is about 45 minutes

(ii) Dependency on trained personnel for flaying is minimised. Even an unskilled person can do flaying. While using a knife for flaying, skilled persons are required

(iii) The hide is removed without much flesh. While using a knife, the quantity of flesh along with the hide is higher

(iv) The physical effort for flaying is considerably reduced’

At the beginning it appeared that Esalia and CFC, the Common Fund for Commodities, would be interested in participating in what I hope will become a fully fledged distribution project, but they didn’t come through. Alas and very disappointingly, Esalia and CFC seem to have another agenda, which may be aimed at the improvement of African hides and skins, but projected only on their member countries, whereas I see the SFF project without borders.

All CFC could come up with was the suggestion to change the name of the Gadget.

Let us face the actual costs again. The possible construction cost of the SFF, in stainless steel, comes to US$465 ($250 if common iron is used). This is far below the cost of one plate at one of the many gala dinners which are continuously organised around the globe for help-agency dignitaries who say they have the fate of the unfortunate at heart. One has to add to the construction cost the value of the chains and the value of a pulley, all together far less than $1,000.

Anyway, I am glad we have transited into an area of being practical and getting things done, because you can’t pull hides with gala dinners, nice words or paper plans. While many help agencies are shifting huge and outrageously expensive but practically useless reports forward and backward, people die of hunger, by the thousands.

Kofi Annan said so himself last June at the FAO conference in Rome and recently in Johannesburg. Every month that passes without action is a month lost. One SFF can, in optimal circumstances, pull 30 hides per hour. I have actually timed it, so let us say, conservatively, 60 hides per day in a medium sized rural community. This adds up to 300 hides per week, almost 1,200 hides per month.

One container load of 20,000kg consists of around 1,200 wet-salted hides. Even if a merchant would pay only 5 cents per kilo more for an SFF-pulled hide compared with a hand flayed hide, that community would make an extra $1,000 for their hides, virtually a fortune in rural Africa.

Therefore, each month that decisions are delayed, $1,000 dollars are lost for each place where an SFF could have been installed. If funding could be found for 1,000 SFFs, which is nothing in terms of money compared with what other projects are costing, a sum of one million dollars would be added to the rural African economy per month, which I challenge is a far better yield than any other project any help organisation is funding!

I repeat nobody can make money from the gadget except, of course, the rural community, so why think big when you can think small and still obtain big results? I have already stated that many prefer to think big, but generally this does not benefit the developing countries. It is the developed countries who supply the plans, machines, know-how etc.

Fortunately, on this occasion, Cotance and Unido have recognised that together we should be able to obtain something relatively big in the end. Here again, we, the industry, have the decisive promise of collaboration from Cotance, who are prepared not only to fund and display the SFF, but also to follow up on the matter.

All visitors will find a questionnaire in the MiA catalogue as well as in a later edition of Leather International and all are invited to fill out this form and email or fax it to the addresses mentioned on the form. The purpose of this feedback is to establish how we can proceed to develop directly or indirectly a fully-fledged programme for the distribution of SFFs in those places that are in need of this kind of device.

Please try to make your own association and/or public authorities aware of this device, because if they contact me, Leather International, Cotance or Unido on this subject, your community may be included if a fully fledged project is developed. The more suggestions and feedback we get, the bigger becomes the chance that indeed such a project will take off. Hence I ask for the active participation of all visitors and readers of Leather International.

Sam Setter