Origin of Bolgatanga
Bolgatanga or, (Bolga as it is known locally), is the capital of the Upper East Region and has always been a meeting point for Trans Sahara traders from Mali and Burkina Faso en route to Tamale and Southern parts of Ghana, e.g., Kumasi and the coastal towns of Accra, Takoradi and Cape Coast.
In the middle of the market place of the regional capital Bolgatanga, lay a large flat rock on lose soil spread over a wide area. In this area the early settlers dug fine soft soil for plastering, renovating their houses. The fine lose soil is called “bole” in Gurene, (which is the language of the people), and the place of this lose soil is called “bolga” and the rock is called “tanga.” The name Bolgatanga is thus derived from the clay, the fine lose soil and the rock!!
Bolgatanga is often also referred to as the handicrafts center of Northern Ghana, and is famous for intricately designed and hand woven straw baskets, hats and smocks.
What the People Eat
The main dishes of the Upper East Region are similar to those of the Upper West. The menu for lunch or supper could be “TZ” or “Tuo Zafi,” rice balls or” Omo Tuo” with groundnut soup or green leaves soups. Rice and beans cooked together and eaten with stew or other sauce is called “wakye”, but beans, rice and cowpea could be cooked and eaten as such. The beans or the cowpea could be ground and formed into small slabs, steamed, (i.e., “Tubaani”) and eaten with stew. .A light pap or porridge called “koko” may be eaten “koose” for a nutritious breakfast. Common beverages include pito and “Zom koom”.
Basket weaving has been regarded always as a traditional craft industry producing baskets essentially for home consumption, to show off family excellence in craftsmanship and also derive supplementary household income. The main products are straw baskets of various sizes and shapes.
The Household Economy and Basket Weaving
It must be understood that the household economy and basket weaving as a business enterprise are intermingled. Production has hitherto been for subsistence. Baskets however, have become an important source of supplementary income for the household economy, much the same as a goat or a sheep may be sold to meet pressing household need. Baskets have been known and regarded as a cultural commodity deriving raw material from common property resources, straw and dyes made from plants.
Commoditization of the Bolga Baskets
The key raw material, straw, is now imported from the southern part of Ghana, these sell at relatively high prices. Other complementary inputs are also sold. Gone are the days when straw and dyes could be secured at locally. There is also a larger market now for baskets and related straw products. Weaving time is now costed at the rate of the government minimum wage rate.
Organization is Key
Over time many educated people have entered the basket weaving industry. It was realized that lack of producers own organization made weavers lose substantial earnings which went to middle men as profits.
The government’s agency, National Board for Small Scale Industries, (NBSSI), stepped in 1995 to facilitate the much needed organization and skills improvement. Pastor John Adengba was engaged to provide skills training to weavers to improve both design and production of the round baskets.
The American Peace Corp posted a volunteer, Melanie Kohr, to NBSSI to help the weavers form their own co-operative organizations. She together with Pastor John Adengba saw great potential in the basket weaving industry and worked tirelessly to organize weavers into producers co-operatives.
There have, over time, emerged several organizations of basket weavers for production and marketing. Fair trade practices have been introduced into the industry. This has made for pre- financing arrangements and credit has become readily accessible. Bolgatanga baskets are now exported and re-exported, (e.g., Burkina Faso) in some cases all over the world. Household production, involving men and women still remain the main source of supply of Bolgatanga baskets.DONATE TODAY!