From the heart of Bolgatanga (Bolga) in the Upper East Region, the MFB Basket business explores a remarkable effort aimed at empowering women through the age-old craft of basketry. The initiative emerged as the brainchild of a Bolga native with a strong desire to provide economic empowerment to women by building a livelihood from basket weaving and leatherwork. The inspiring story of Melody Fati Bawa (MFB) reflects fortitude, resilience, and passion to impact lives positively. Melody Fati Bawa, an adept basket weaver based in Bolgatanga, breathes life into the cultural tapestry of basketry in the region. With skilled hands and a profound connection to the weaving tradition, Melody crafts intricately designed baskets that blend artistry with functionality. Her childhood experiences on the campus of Prempeh College saw Fati engaging in petty trading to support her father who was a security guard. Little did she anticipate that her trading skills would become the linchpin of her livelihood.
How It All Began
A conversation with the Shipping Review Journal sparked an intriguing story of Fati which resonates with dedication to her vision over the past fifteen (15) years. She has successfully sustained herself and supported over 300 women through the income generated from basket weaving and leatherwork. Fati’s entrepreneurial journey took an unexpected turn whilst running a telecom business and noticed women trading woven baskets to make ends meet. Inspired, she decided to showcase these baskets on Facebook which attracted the attention of a foundation in the United States. This partnership marked the inception of a thriving sale of woven baskets and providing respite to the women involved.
As the recognition and demand for the products grew, she was encouraged to venture into basket weaving herself and dedicated time to learning the craft. She began crafting her own baskets, fans, bags, and hats for sale.
Basket Weaving in Bolga
Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of the Upper East Region of Ghana lies Bolgatanga, a vibrant hub renowned for its rich cultural heritage and traditional crafts. Among its exceptional artistic traditions, basket weaving stands out as a true symbol of their creativity and craftsmanship. For Centuries, basket weaving has been an integral part of Bolgatanga’s cultural fabric passed down through generations as an art and a means of livelihood. The meticulous process of basket weaving mainly practiced by skilled artisans, particularly women in Bolgatanga serve both utilitarian and artistic purposes. Artisans expertly weave baskets using locally sourced natural materials like straw, grass, and sisal. The dexterity and creativity displayed in the weaving process results in finely crafted baskets of diverse shapes and sizes. Aside their aesthetic appeal and functionality, these baskets are significant cultural artifacts. The intricate patterns, materials, and designs carry symbolic meanings, narrating stories of the community’s history, values, and beliefs. Moreover, the skill and precision exhibited together with the vibrant colours used has attracted the attention of art collectors, designers, and tourists both locally and internationally. Globally, the art reflects their authentic craftsmanship, cultural richness, and identity beyond being a means of livelihood.
Empowering Women through Craftsmanship
Beyond personal success, Fati is on a mission to empower women in her community through the art of basket weaving. By imparting her skills and knowledge, she has created a network of skilled artisans, giving women especially, an opportunity to develop valuable skills and attain financial stability. These women contribute to their households and, collectively, to the economic vibrancy of Bolgatanga. Her training programs aim to provide sustainable livelihoods for women, enhance their self-confidence and imbibe a sense of accomplishment.
Fati’s Export Endeavours
During her interview with the Shipping Review, Fati disclosed that a substantial part of her income is from exports. She reaches a broader market and taps into the global demand for unique and high quality products. Her clientele stretches across the globe, prompting her to engage in monthly export activities. The consistent export success, however, is unable to limit her entrepreneurial spirit; rather, Fati perceives other market opportunities amidst the challenges faced by women in business.
Building Lasting Connections
The monthly export routine has allowed Fati to establish enduring connections with clients around the world. Through her dedication to quality and authenticity, she has garnered a loyal customer base that values the cultural richness embedded in each handwoven piece. These networks extend beyond mere business transactions to become conduits for cultural exchange and appreciation, fostering a global community that values and supports traditional craftsmanship.
Despite the successes there are inherent challenges. Typical of remote areas, is the lack of proper transportation infrastructure and logistical support, which is crucial for timely delivery. This results in increased costs which reduce the competitiveness of businesses.
Other challenges enumerated include lack of knowledge and expertise in the proper handling of delicate products, leading to damage at postal points. Also, access to market information to meet international quality standards, customer preferences, global market trends as well as obtaining relevant certifications locally are major constraints facing the business.
Many involved in the basket weaving business fall into the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are constrained with limited access to credit to expand production for export.
Considering the increased global attention on sustainable and eco-friendly products, Bolgatanga weavers are to fulfil environmentally conscious practices during production with limited resources and guidance.
Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort and support by government, local authorities, and relevant stakeholders to create an enabling environment through strategic initiatives to drive a vibrant basket export industry.
Looking Ahead: The Future of Bolgatanga Baskets
Fati’s export endeavours underscore the resilience and adaptability of traditional crafts in the face of a globalized market. As she looks to the future, Fati envisions a scenario where Bolgatanga baskets become synonymous with quality, authenticity, ethical craftsmanship and an increased commercial value. Her commitment to elevating not just her business but the entire community reflects a forward-looking approach that values tradition while embracing the possibilities of an inclusive and equitable society.
Empowering women through basket weaving is a catalyst for positive transformation of livelihoods. As a dedicated artisan, Fati fosters economic empowerment and cultural preservation through her craft. Each basket woven tells a story, representing more than a functional item but a piece of Bolgatanga’s cultural narrative.
In a global context, artisans like Melody Fati Bawa play a vital role in showcasing the artistic richness of local traditions, promoting tourism whilst creating additional avenues for economic growth.
Fati remains hopeful that through her artistic and trading skills, she can offer respite to more women in the region whilst reducing poverty.