MUJI Laboratory for Living > Found MUJI > MUJI×JICA Project Kenya

Joint Project - Overview

The MUJI x JICA Project started at the end of 2010, when MUJI approached JICA asking JICA for its cooperation with MUJI's plan regarding Christmas products. Putting the call out to its offices throughout the world, JICA received more than 80 ideas; ultimately, ideas from the One Village, One Product project of Kenya and Kyrgyz were chosen from amongst these. From the time the decision was made until the commercialization of the product, steps were carefully followed one after the other, from checking manufacturing capability and export protocols (formalities) to quality testing and design reviews; from Kenya, 5 kinds of ornaments made from soapstone, a stone that is soft like soap, were developed, while from Kyrgyz, where cattle breeding flourishes, 3 kinds of felt goods, including a glasses case, were developed. MUJI applied the same level of quality and design as it does to its regular products to the products developed under these endeavors; commercialization was made possible with the cooperation of the people of the corresponding villages and the support given by JICA in creating a system of product management and a system of quality control. MUJI is continuing its activities relating to this project with JICA and the involved areas in 2012.

Country Information Republic of Kenya
※Taken from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website

General information

Area 5,830,000㎢(approximately 1.5 times the size of Japan)
Population 39,800,000 (World Bank, 2009)
Capital Nairobi (approximately 3,100,000 people, Kenya Bureau of Statistics, 2009)
Ethnic groups Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo etc.
Language Swahili, English
Religion traditional religion, Christian, Muslim


Major Industries (agriculture) coffee, tea, horticultural crops, sisal hemp, raw cotton, corn, pyrethrum
(industry) food processing, beer, tobacco, cement, petroleum products, sugar
(mining) soda ash, fluorite
nominal GDP 3.24 billion US dollars (World Bank, 2010) (Japan 5.5035 trillion dollars, 0.6% of Japan's GDP)
*taken from Bureau of Statistics data "World Statistics"
nominal GDP per capita 802 US dollars (World Bank, 2010) (Japan 42,983 dollars, 1.8% of Japan's per capita GDP)
*taken from Bureau of Statistics data "World Statistics"
Economic growth Approximately 5% (World Bank, 2010)

The JICA One Village One Product Project in Kenya

In Kenya most of the investment and industry is concentrated in urban areas; resources are not being adequately utilized in local regions, and from the point of view of poverty reduction and improvements in incomes through employment, the enhancement of competitiveness between the many small and tiny companies and business groups in the rural areas is becoming a significant problem. The Kenyan government thus focused on the Japanese One Village One Product movement (*1) which harnesses regional resources, a One Village One Product bureau (OVOP bureau) was established within the Kenyan Ministry of Industrialization, and the One Village One Product Program (OVOP Program) is being put into practice. The OVOP bureau supports regional business groups through the dissemination OVOP concepts regarding the utilization of regional resources and the improvement of added value, the uncovering of target groups whose concepts coincide with that of OVOP, the provision of training opportunities to groups for capacity building and providing support for exhibits at exhibitions and trade shows. JICA provides technical support for the trouble-free implementation of the OVOP program and the improvement of services offered by the OVOP bureau. Many business groups targeted by the OVOP program manufacture such processed agricultural products as honey and yoghurt; there are also groups that manufacture unique products such as furniture made from tree stumps and traditional woven goods such as stoles and basket bags.

The group of producers whose soapstone products were commercialized in the MUJI x JICA project was established in 1990 and had already had experience with exporting, having exported to Europe, but it was the first time for them to deal with large Japanese corporations. The quality required by the Japanese companies was of a very high standard, but through the project, the group of producers learned management systems for quality and production and the necessary export formalities while putting them into practice. The group of producers also participated in training related to trade and export formalities aimed at small and medium size exporters conducted by JICA, and so a synergy effect with JICA projects was born.

Note 1: JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) One Village One Product Project The One Village One Product movement, which began in Oita Prefecture, is an initiative that aims for the revitalization of the region through the cultivation of specialty goods utilizing regional resources. There is a big difference between life in the rural areas and that of urban areas of developing countries, and there are not many opportunities for cash income. Based on the Japanese One Village One Product movement, JICA has addressed rural development through the One Village One Product movement for rural areas in developing countries. Specifically, they are implementing projects that support the revitalization of regions through the utilization of regional tourism resources and the promotion of local industry through the development and sale of products that use local raw materials in countries in Asia, Africa and Central and South America.

Information on Kenya's Soapstone Products

Soapstone is a stone that is soft like soap. It is found in the Kisii region in the western part of Kenya. This stone is used in sculptures, and shipping it overseas is a valuable avenue of cash income for the region. Hoping that it would link to improvements in quality, MUJI decided to stock craft products made of the stone. The group of producers put a portion of their profits towards the construction of day-care centers and information centers, thus making a return to the local community.

Soapstone products - how they're made (each product is carefully crafted by hand)

  1. 1.The stone is carved out.
  2. 2.Large stones are broken into smaller stones.
  3. 3.A rough shape is created.
  4. 4.Artisans sculpt things down to the fine details.
  5. 5.Files with different teeth are carefully used in four stages.
  6. 6.After washing with water, the product is dried in the sun.
  7. 7.After this, the product is polished using sisal hemp.
  8. 8.The products are packed - the process is complete.