Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Back to the grassroots of the INCOME Project

It’s week 6 and things are now on track again after multiple trips to AfriKids, a great NGO who work with the Ghanaian National Health Insurance Service. We all got well acquainted with Lucy, a British doctor who is in Bolga for three months working tirelessly at the AfriKids clinic, and we are very grateful for her continuous assistance and patience with us!

Work the past few weeks has continued to come on leaps and bounds with a few new developments. Following the Steering Committee meeting Hala, Desmond and Johnny had another meeting about the proposed Craft Fair in Bolga. The meeting was productive but a key member of the Steering Committee didn’t attend. We still got some major decisions made, with dates, a name and a venue very nearly finalised - watch this space!

Visiting the craft makers groups

Thursday of last week was all about meeting the craftspeople that the INCOME project works with. First off were the smock makers who are situated in Bolga’s big market. They work under straw canopies in individual sections, some using archaic Singer sewing machines, and some meticulously assembling the smocks by hand. The smocks they produce are impressive. For starters the smocks are huge, and begin life as individual strips of fabric sewn together to form the large traditional garments worn for both tradition and fashion.  

A smock maker sewing the front pocket of a smock
Whilst their products are beautiful, they do need more sewing machines to assist their production, and during a somewhat intense meeting it was decided that we must prioritise trying to obtain new machines for them. It was a slightly sobering exchange as we were reminded that whilst fair trade and good business practice are important; if your machines are not able to do the work then there will be no trade at all! 

Luckily the INCOME project team are already on it and one of our major priorities will now be trying to establish partnerships with other NGOs to provide the tools the smock makers need.

A leather worker's shop in Bolgatanga Craft Village

The second group on our grand tour of Bolga were the leather workers group at the Bolgatanga Craft Village. Similar to the smock-makers, the leather workers need materials and training; namely a leather treatment facility. This would allow them to increase productivity with better quality products, leading to more lucrative and sustainable business. As previous cohorts researched and contacted a local expert with these skills, the leather treatment training will hopefully go ahead in the near future.

Two problems raised, two priorities on our list, two solutions in the pipeline.

The slightly lagging energy levels from an intense morning were soon transformed in the afternoon as we visited Zaare Basket Weavers group. They have a centre built by TradeAID and Canadian Feed The Children and we were immediately welcomed by a Ghanaian dance throw-down. Each member of our team was challenged to the floor and us being INCOME we obviously danced our socks off, much to the amusement of our lovely hosts. The basket weavers were busy producing stock for a large order and their store room was full to bursting with their beautiful wares.

Zaare Basket Weavers Group

The consensus from the basket weavers was that their experience with TradeAID has been a resounding success, and hearing that gave us huge encouragement that we can make a similar difference with the smock makers and leather workers.

Our final stop of the day came after a bumpy but beautiful ride to the Vea Basket Weavers group. The area surrounding their centre was stunning. A large lake swept alongside luminous green rice paddies surrounded by rising stone formations. It was a marked change to the flat and dusty Bolga landscape we know and love.

The patient group (we were definitely running on Ghana Maybe Time at this point) welcomed us with open arms and assigned us all local names…Obviously the names all mean fantastic and powerful things, us being INCOME! As the meeting drew to a close, with echoed sentiments of the Zaare group being expressed, another dance off ensued. We all rose to the occasion, again, and strutted our stuff surrounded by the clapping, chanting group. Emily got stuck trying to leave and went for a few more rounds of dancing (which she loved) and that concluded our day of meeting the crafts people of Bolga.

We drove back alongside the same lake, watching the couple of boats slide by, fairly exhausted by a challenging morning followed by an active afternoon. The issues raised in the morning were food for thought, but us being INCOME we had all started thinking of ways to address them and ended the day full of ideas and faith that we would be able to make things happen.

Written by Johnny and Hala

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