Friday, August 8, 2014

Supporting Local Leather Workers in Bolga

Since Cohort 7 began, Prosper has been frequently meeting with the leather workers group and is making real advancements in TradeAID's assistance.  Read his blog post below for an insight into how leather is locally produced and about the key areas of focus that have been identified by the group through a needs assessment. 

Leather stretching process by the leather treatment workers 

It has being amazing these few weeks working with the leather workers group in the Bolgatanga Craft Village.

With TradeAID, the INCOME project has been working with a number of craft groups in the Upper East Region including the group of craft women with disabilities, smock makers, leather workers, fabric weavers, and basket weavers. Over the past year and a half, the INCOME project has brought improvements to the various groups, but it appeared to us that not much has specifically been done with regards to the leather workers.

Have being attached/assigned to be the team member responsible for the leather workers in Cohort Seven under the able leadership of Emily, I am doing all it takes to turn things around in the leather industry in the region.

Leather, a product gotten from the skin of animals specifically from cattle, goats, and sheep (mostly domestic animals) is very versatile raw material that can be used in making so many finished products. Some of these products include leather bags, shoes, belts, sandals, furniture, cloths and many more other incredible products be it a whole leather product or a combination of leather and other products - for instance, a fabric and leather combination.

Before discussing the specific needs of the leather workers group I am working with, may I take a few minutes to let you in on how the finished product (leather) is processed from the raw material locally:
  • When the raw material is procured, it is soaked in fresh water for a day
  • Prepare a mixture of cab bate and ashes with water and soak leather in it for at least two days
  • The hair is removed from the skin
  • After the hair is removed, it is soaked in water again
  • A local chemical called BAGARUUWA is prepared and the leather soaked in it
  • A process called CANI is done (thus the removal of the remainants of bits of meat on the inner surface of the leather)
  • After this fresh Bagaruuwa is pounded and mixed with water and the leather soaked inside. This process is called CHUURA
  • After the Chuura, drying is next and can take a day depending on the intensity of the sun
  • Stretching of the leather is next - this makes the leather white
  • After the white leather is obtained from the stretching, one can now choose the colour you prefer in the colouring process
  • Do note that the drying and the stretching processes go with oil (frytol)
  • After the colouration process, you will dry it and stretch it again and then the product is ready for market.
Local chemicals used to treat the leather
With all these beautiful artifacts coming from the leather workers, the industry is saddled with numerous challenges. Some of the pressing ones include: financial problems; problem of bad scent from leather (through the treatment process); lack of loan facility to boost business; inability to keep proper records; lack of capacity building workshops on product diversification; lack of industrial machines and tools to increase productivity; and market accessibility.

Having done the needs assessment we, in cohort seven, have earmarked some of the needs that can be addressed within a short period of time. We are looking specifically at addressing the following with the time being:
  • Organizing a leather treatment training to deal with the problem of the scent
  • Organizing record keeping training for the leather workers
·         I am also investigating with TradeAID Integrated if there is the possibility to give or facilitate booster loans for the leather group and to organize platforms/capacity building workshops on product diversification.

We are working assiduously to the last atom of our strength to make sure that by the end of our three months with international service, we will be leaving an indelible imprint on the leather industry in the Upper East Region.

Here are some of the handy works of leather at the Bolgatanga craft village:
A sample of the beautiful leather products by the leather workers at the Bolgatanga Craft Village

More products of leather workers coming your way soon. We will keep you posted!

By Prosper Akulia

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