Under the scorching afternoon sun of Bolgatanga, a rural community north of Ghana, Patience Apambila is splitting strands of dry grass in preparation for weaving them into baskets.
Apambila is one of 200,000 women in Bolgatanga, Bolga for short, who create handwoven Veta Vera grass baskets, famously known as Bolga Baskets.
One of Ghana’s biggest Bolga basket exporters, Dominic Abakuri says the practice of weaving baskets is a traditional skill as old as the community and has been passed on from generations.
Bolga’s soil is not fertile enough for commercial agricultural activities alone. As a result, handwork like pottery and basket weaving are undertaken by women too.
But weaving Bolga baskets is beyond continuing an age long tradition, it is also about creating jobs.
Exporters and local retailers organize these women all year round and pay them to weave the Bolga baskets based on demand.
A lot of women from the community are poor, so, making and selling baskets serve as an additional source of income for them.
Apambila, for example, can take care of some family needs from the money she makes weaving these baskets. “It helps us to set up our children’s school bills and do a lot of things,” she said.
Boosting the economy
Ghana’s non-traditional export sector, which basket weaving falls under, contributes about 20% to the country’s export trade, says Afua Asabea Asare, CEO of Ghana Export Promotion Authority.
Through Bolga basket exports to key markets such as the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand, the sector is increasing its sales potential.
Asare added that in 2017, Ghana exported roughly $800,000 worth of baskets to the international market,
“A lot of countries are interested in our baskets. Denmark, and even the Ghanaian markets,” she said.