Bolgatanga is the largest town in the Upper East region of Ghana, about 20 miles South of the Burkina Faso border and very close to the edge of the Sahara Desert. The sun roasts the villages of northern Ghana year round, except during the 2-3 months of rainy season when it rains, rains, rains. The people living there are traditionally farmers and herdsman, but with its variable climate farming is very difficult. Local women supplement the family income by weaving the baskets we refer to as Bolga baskets which are hand-woven using locally-grown straw.
Basket weaving has helped bring much needed income to the villages surrounding Bolgatanga. The traditional skill which has been handed down from generation to generation provides employment to approximately 10,000 people, mostly women. An average of two baskets a week can be woven by a woman who also has household chores, firewood collection, water collection, washing and the care of her children to tend to each day.
African Market Baskets™ founder and CEO, Steve Karowe has been importing from Africa for 35 years. For the past 18 years he has worked directly with artisans in Bolgatanga and helps support over 5,000 weavers and their families.
“One of the greatest parts of importing from Africa is seeing the positive impact we have on artisans and their families,” Steve says.
Steve visits Africa regularly to meet with the weavers and hold town hall meetings where he solicits feedback and listens to concerns and needs. He works with each weaver’s group to ensure that products are being made to the highest quality and design standards. And, he oversees Every Basket Helps™ goodwill projects with the goal of reducing poverty in the region.
Steve believes strongly in the concept of Fair Trade. By working to Fair Trade standards, African Market Baskets™ makes sure that the weavers are happy with conditions and wages. Strong bonds have been formed as Steve and African Market Baskets™ have worked with many of the same people for over a decade.
African Market Baskets is a division of The Overseas Connection, Ltd., located in Nederland, Colorado.