The Bolga Basket Weaver
In north-east of Ghana, near to the border to Burkina Faso, Bolgatanga is situated, where the Frafra are the original settlers. (Scientifically spoken the Frafra are a larger ethical group, and the weavers belong to the smaller tribe of the Gurunsi. In Ghana however the weavers call themselves Frafras.) In this area about 120.000 people are living and not in every house or compound families or villages weaving is a predominant vocation.
Whilst agriculture - despite the poor soils of the Sahel zone - is the major occupation (millet, guinea corn, maize, groundnuts, beans, cattle and animal rearing) about 4000 people do weaving as a part time or even full-time occupation.
Out of the 4000 weaver we from Fairtrade Producer Society (FPS) co-operate and work together with 980 (survey and group registration 2002). They are from three villages: Gambigo, Nyarga and Sumbrungu.
In the individual compounds the weaver groups are organised like a family is together. To the outside, meaning towards the market and also our man Abu Sadik or Accraboy they are represented by their leaders. The Leaders - different for men and women - are the link to the market and are selected from the groups (families, between 5 and 30 people) themselves. Theirs is a service function: negotiate price, collect straw, collect money, transport baskets and straw, serve as communication link, such as orders, quantities, colours, style. In case of discrepancies the leader is sacked.
Accraboy is co-ordinating the orders of Getrade-FPS, and is sending the ready baskets to Accra. His duty - apart from co-ordination, colour selection, weaver’s selection and their quantity of orders, and the first quality control - is definitely payment of weavers and the organisation of basket transport from the villages. Also he has the storage in his house, as well as the straw storage and also the leather makers and their leather. The leather is made as per piece in his house. Also he sells the rejected baskets at the Arts Centre in Accra, where he still has a store, like he opened it in 1986.
Prices however are fixed with the weavers by Getrade-FPS through discussions in the meetings with the weavers two times a year.
Since its inauguration in 1999 FPS as a Producer Society with the objective of a fund of 3 % of Turnover and a distribution of trading surplus to producers is organising the weavers as follows:
Since the 50th the TEA (spoken Te - A ) the basket with a handle is produced in Bolgatanga.
An average of four baskets a week can be done by a woman, who has her housework, firewood collection, water bringing, washing and children care during the whole day. So she can achieve an additional income of Cedis 16000, which is equivalent to 4 kg of millet, which is the basic stable food in the region. (Figures 9/99).
This is the reason, why especially mothers are weaving a lot, as they are often bound to feed the family. Whilst men are weaving more beautiful and more artistic designs and also more baskets (they do not have any daily duty, but renew „only“ houses, organise farm tools and meet with other men at the Pito sites, or save for a bicycle). It is women who weave for the welfare of the family.
Every man/woman is working on her/his own basket. They buy their own straw, and mostly dye it alone, twist it themselves and weave each a basket. For weaving they sit in their house or compound on the floor or under the tree. Mostly weavers work alone, or in small company, hardly in huge groups.
With the high volumes of production, one can see the area of Bolgatanga, where the Frafra weavers are farming and have Basket weaving for income generation, is developing and changing gradually:
We however still feel the workmanship for a basket is underpaid ( 2.50 US $) and would like to change that, but the common Market does not allow for higher prices.
Women and men are working separately in the Basket weaving. They organise themselves, around their compounds into groups, who have a group leader. The leaders are responsible for contracts and Sales; however prices and incomes are discussed and shared within the group.
With the income of just one week’s production local school fees are paid, but only few send their children to school. FPS is since 2003 having a programme, the BOLGA SCHOOLFUND to enrol the weaver’s children to school and give them school fees, uniform and books
Our next aim in the Basket industry is to reorganise the professionalism in weaving. The groups work with “leaders”, who not necessarily are weavers or specialists. This change we will do in a one week workshop in December 2006, to meet the challenges that face the Basket industry.