November 15, 2014

We have just released the Fair Market report on prices paid in the straw Bolgatanga basket industry in #Ghana. Click the secure link to the Fair Market Report on Bolga Baskets and it will open up in PDF directly.

We look forward to working together to bring about change in this industry so that the thousands of people involved in making baskets will earn at least the minimum wage in #Ghana from weaving #baskets and other products sold through the central market.

Our research found that NONE of the 120 weavers we interviewed ever received anywhere near a price that met the minimum wage in Ghana when they sold a large market basket in the central market to traders.

The images in this post show scenes from a typical market day in Bolgatanga central market. Here, a woman is attempting to sell 5 baskets. A trader is amassing baskets purchased off the street and around the market. 

The problem

Over several years living in Bolgatanga, basket weavers often commented to us, the authors of this report, that a weaver could not profit from making baskets. We wondered why this was so. What was impeding their profit-making ability?

In our own work in villages we observed that many weavers were illiterate and not in a position to negotiate prices or selling conditions with traders. We wondered what weavers themselves, across the region, would tell us if we gave them a chance to express themselves about these issues.
We wondered what buyers would do if they knew the conditions around the central market in Bolgatanga.

Would buyers be motivated to find a way to ensure the weaver received a fair price?
We wondered if having a clear picture might bring about change for everyone in the supply chain.

Outcome (see p. 89, Conclusion).

After completing this research it is difficult to conclude that selling straw baskets in the central Bolgatanga straw basket market serves straw basket weavers’ interests in any form whatsoever.
If any interests are served, they are those of the middlemen traders, exporters and others in the supply chain who profit.

One thing that is clear from this research is that it is not the straw basket weavers who profit from their work.

Far from helping weavers profit, the prices paid for straw baskets sold in the central Bolgatanga basket market do not cover the cost of a weaver’s time and, thus, do not meet the minimum wage in Ghana.

The middlemen traders, the exporters, the shipping companies, and international buyers profit on the back of the humble basket weaver’s time and skill.

However everyone, including the weavers themselves, could benefit if the straw basket weavers were remunerated for their costs and time.

Whilst this research benchmarked one basket—the round market basket – those who work with baskets and observe prices paid for other styles of baskets in the central market will know that no baskets are fairly remunerated.

Thanks and Gratitude

G-lish Foundation is grateful to the Australian High Commission in Ghana and the Australian Government’s Direct Aid Program for the grant that enabled this work to be undertaken between 2012 and 2013 in the Upper East Region of Ghana. We thank everyone at the Australian High Commission for their faith and support which enabled us to carry out unprecedented work which has the potential to transform many lives in Ghana’s second poorest region.

This work is about a simple basket. The injustice we observed that became this project and now this report is about the people who make it, the end consumer, the people who trade them, and all the people in between.

Ultimately, it’s about choices: how you choose to spend your money. We hope that this work can be broadened to other crafts and communities so that buyers may take action wherever they make a choice about prices paid to artisans.

We would like to thank the 120 weavers from six weaving villages we visited: Dulugu, Tongo-Beu, Gambigigo, Sirigu, Sumburungu and Nyariga. They shared their experiences in great detail. We have over 2400 minutes of recorded interviews in Frafra (translated into English) with the 120 weavers across these six communities. The interviews form part of this report.

We would also like to thank the community leaders of these six communities who allowed us to undertake this work in their communities.

We would like to thank the international buyers who participated in the online survey and provided valuable written information about their experiences buying baskets via the survey and in emails. We would like to thank the few basket producing businesses in Bolgatanga who opened up about their processes, prices and experiences working with weavers and international buyers, and agreed to show us all documentation and systems information.

We would like to thank our colleagues in G-lish Foundation, past and present, whose courage and hard work were crucial in making this happen.  We intend to continue to undertake advocacy for the weavers of Bolgatanga to ensure they receive fair remuneration for their work. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Contact details are at the end of this report if you wish to stay involved in helping bring about economically empowering change for basket weavers in Ghana.

Hashtag: #BasketGood to comment on this in social media.
Twitter: @gaylepescud @godwinyidana1 @G_lishGhana.

Message us here with any questions or comment below. In the next two days we will be inviting buyers to a private, locked, online forum in which we'll discuss the issues here in more detail and share experiences in order to better understand and find solutions to the issues.

June 14, 2014

Top Travel Articles for Ghana

For travellers to Ghana, a summary of some of the more popular travel advice articles that will hopefully help you prepare a little better for travel in Ghana. Click on the link for whichever article you're interested in. Articles relating to money or costs written more than a year ago should have 10-20% added to any costs quoted to keep up with increases to goods and services in Ghana. Let us know if you have any tips, updates or advice--click comments below the article. Happy travels.

January 4, 2012

Help Fundraise for Quadriplegic in Ghana

Dear friends, visitors, readers,

We know many of you support worthy causes, especially if you are connected with Ghana already. However, we're hoping you may be able to help out supporting our brother (literally).

Our younger brother, Joshua, became quadriplegic—paralysed from the neck down—after sustaining severe spinal cord injuries when he fell from a tree he was climbing in September, something that could have happened to any one of us. Your donation will help cover Jo’s ongoing medical costs and purchase devices to help prevent pressure sores and improve mobility.

Thank you in advance. If you would like to share this with other supporters, we would appreciate it.

A 1 minute film showing the story
Link to our simple fundraising site:

February 27, 2011

Online Resources for Visiting Ghana

A couple of excellent online forums to find out about travel in Ghana, or life in Ghana, are:

Internations works on trust and they verify your credentials before being allowed to access the site fully. You can meet plenty of expats and get up-to-date details about living in Ghana, particularly Accra. They have an active expat community that attends regular meet-ups too. A good way to meet people when you first arrive in Ghana.
"InterNations is a community of trust and confidence, present in 230 cities worldwide. Data security and privacy are of major importance. Therefore membership is invitation-only:
You need to be invited to become a member"
and Lonely Planet's "Thorntree" forum.
This is geared towards short-term travelers and is essentially a place to find the most difficult to get information that may not be available anywhere else online. Many current and former travelers lurk around the forums and are ready to offer advice and answer questions from fellow travelers. When visiting Italy I developed my entire itinerary around the feedback on the forums. It was brilliant. I've read loads relating to Ghana there and the advice is helpful and mostly accurate.

This image was taken at Axim Beach Hotel, Axim, one of the best beaches and hotels in Ghana--with prices for all budgets. 

February 18, 2011

Income Generation Video from Bolga by G-lish Foundation

It's not all TZ and smock making in Bolgatanga. Press play to see the lifecycle of a recycled Bolga basket and get inspired! Let us know what you think.You can also see the organisation's new site at

November 29, 2010

Must See Outer Bolgatanga, Upper East Region, Ghana

If you come to the Upper East Region of Ghana for a couple of days, you may wish to visit SWOPA: Sirigu Women's Organisation of Pottery and Art. The Sirigu story (the situation is very similar to that of the villages G-lish works with), courtesy of the SWOPA site:
Sirigu’s story is typical of farming villages in Northern Ghana; several years of intensive farming and poor rainfall has degraded the land to the extent that even subsistence farming is threatened. This is where the similarities end though; Sirigu village is also well known for its traditional architecture, basketry, pottery and wall designing. Faced with declining yields from farming, it became not only important to revive the traditional arts of the women of Sirigu but also to leverage it as an important source of income for the women for the upkeep of their families. Many children owe their education and healthcare to income generated from the handicrafts and traditional arts produced by the women of Sirigu.

A shot of design of external walls of hut in Sirigu. Image by Familia Bonnardeaux

At SWOPA you taste village life in the far northern Upper East Region and learn something of the culture, arts and crafts of the village and surrounding areas. And, for the budget-conscious, their prices are great. You can see the accommodation huts here. The Harmattan is in full swing here in the Upper East Region already so if you visit anytime from now until February you will appreciate the cool interior of the huts into which you can escape from the dust and heat during the day.

The peace and quiet at night is, well, a bit deafening; all you will hear is a chorus of electronic sounding insects and the odd lost goat.

We were accompanied by two foreign friends from overseas as well as three Ghanaians from the Eastern Region visiting this region for the first time on a big trip up north. They all said that the trip to Sirigu was the highlight of their entire trip, which is saying something! Something good, I believe. The Ghanaians were fascinated with the life of the village as well as how those of us living in this area can withstand the harsh, dry heat compared with the humid jungle climate of their region. Our Canadian friends echoed similar sentiments. Visiting Sirigu gives you a first-hand opportunity to feel that reality and know another Ghana altogether.

Costs: 15 GHC per night for a traditional, round hut painted in the SWOPA style with 2 single beds and inhouse bath and toilet. An entrance fee of 1.50 GHC is payable. If you tour the village, the price is 4.00 for non-Ghanaians and 2.00 for Ghanaians. There is a dorm with five single beds for 30 GHC total. The dorm is constructed in the traditional style of the area with steps leading up to a wide, flat, low-walled roof from which guests can gaze at the stars at night and sleep during the very hot season, if they like.

The major crafts produced in Sirigu for sale at very reasonable prices in the gallery at the centre include pottery, baskets and acrylics on canvas in traditional designs and style from the area.

A clay, glazed dish about the size of half a PC keyboard costs around 6 GHC. A short piece about the pottery here.
The colours of the pots are black with a geometrical design. The colour is made by putting the hot pots in a mixture of millet grass. These pots have round or flat bottoms and some have lids. The colour of the pot is earthen red with geometrical designs in black.

A typical mud home with roof designed to be slept on in hot season. A basket maker holding a basket typical of that area. Image by Baptiste Delbos.

Awesome chop bar. Image by Baptiste Delbos.

SWOPA is located about 40 minutes drive north-east from Bolgatanga: turn right at the Kandiga junction when heading north to Burkina on the highway from Bolga, SWOPA is another 17 kms along the dirt road from the junction. A bit tricky in the wet season, but not impossible, and easy in the dry season. You could also hire motorbikes from Tanga Tours for 20 GHC a day in Bolgatanga.

Meals are huge, delicious and prepared that day and cost 5 GHC per person. Call ahead and be sure to order drinks in advance as they need to order them from the local market.

A 40 minute taxi ride there (and 40 minutes return, same day, same driver) will cost around 35 GHC from Bolgatanga. Click here for a more extensive view of Sirigu-related images including the village, architecture, design and arts and crafts.

I also referenced another blogger's writing on Sirigu here in Two Excellent Ghana Blogs.

November 17, 2010

Travels in Ghana Ebook

Back to the heart of this blog: Travel in Ghana. I'm writing about an ebook developed by a passionate traveler to Ghana called Marie McCarthy. You may have followed her blog as she was traveling. I did a few posts linking to her travels at the time and the original blog link is still here on this blog.

However, for those who like to get all their Ghana travel posts in one place, and for anyone interested in publishing their travels in digital form, you may like to check out Travels in Ghana. A simple digital download you can read on your e-reader too.

On a completely separate note, you might also want to check out Holli's post on Voodoo and Juju. These are a big deal here across the country and the entire region. Voodoo originated in Benin so that's not really news, but you can see some interesting images when you read Holli's post. Whether you believe in it or not, most Ghanaians do, even those who claim to follow one of the main religions. Even some football teams have been known to believe they'll win or lose a match based on the feedback from those who practice Juju.

I like to understand what people believe and how it affects their lives. If you spend quality time with people in any culture over a period of time you come to understand the interplay between various spiritual beliefs and how that affects things like development. They're all connected and it's worth taking the time to understand in order to connect. 

November 4, 2010

Seed Initiative Winners from Ghana

It's with much surprise and delight to post that G-lish Foundation, the organisation founded by my inspiring partner, Godwin Yidana, is one of the winners of this year's SEED Initiative Awards.
"The SEED Awards recognise inspiring social and environmental entrepreneurs whose businesses can help meet sustainable development challenges. By helping entrepreneurs to scale-up their activities, the SEED Initiative, which is hosted by UNEP, aims to boost local economies and tackle poverty, while promoting the sustainable use of resources and ecosystems."
The UNEP's full press release can be read here.

As the press release explains, the award seeks to recognise and support young organisations that focus on sustainable development. 

The winners receive support in the form of tailored workshop training in-country and via distance (remotely) to help them develop their business plans and find solutions to barriers to growth so that the orgs can break through whatever problems they're facing and continue their good work. 
"The prize they will receive from SEED is a package of individually-tailored support for their business. This includes access to relevant expertise and technical assistance, meeting new partners and building networks, developing business plans and identifying sources of finance. SEED will furthermore contribute towards meeting each winner's most immediate needs by contributing to a jointly developed support plan."
You can visit the G-lish facebook page and read more about their activities by clicking the link on the right of this page.  

The winners from Ghana are truly inspiring. The other winners are: 

Some of the winners from African and further afield that caught my eye are:

Kenya: EcoPost - Fencing Posts from Recycled Post-Consumer Waste Plastic

Burkina Faso: Manufacture and Popularization of Biomass Briquettes (when you see how many trees are cut down for charcoal for cooking fires you understand why an alternative source of fuel is so important).

Senegal: Micro Power Economy for Rural Electrification 

"The goal of this enterprise involving local partners from the private and microfinance sector is to set up a profitable rural power provider based on off-grid power system operation and the utilisation of renewable energy sources, such as wind-solar-diesel hybrid power systems."

China: SolSource

 You can check out all the winners at the 2010 Awards link.

October 21, 2010

The Amazing Race Ghana

 For those planning to travel to Ghana for the first time, you may like to check out clips from a recent episode of the Amazing Race when it hit Accra, the capital of Ghana. I've just had a chance to see the clips for the first time myself and can vouch that there is nothing unusual in the experiences that the contestants had in Ghana.

That is, this is the Ghana I know and that you will encounter when you arrive. Some Ghanaians are annoyed by a "dirty" representation of Accra but, frankly, that's how Accra is.But we all have to deal with it. As did the racers.

You'll see inside a real market and also check out the famous coffin makers. Of course, you don't need to visit these places when you come to Ghana but you'd be missing out. We do cover how you can visit the coffin makers and markets in our Ghana Guide.

Ghanaweb is hosting the clips here.

The photo of the coffins at Teshie is by Walt Jabsco. A little explanation on the coffins. They're mostly "patronised" by the Ga people of Greater Accra. I say Ga, but I'm sure someone will disagree with me. The deceased may have expressed a desire to be buried in a coffin that represented their occupation in life, but also their vices or hobbies. You will see coffins shaped as cigarettes, bottles of beer, Coca Cola, pens, rockets, lobsters, and the lovely cow you can see in the photo above. Personally, I'd like to be buried in an Egyptian mummy with a bellydance coin motif coffin as well as some Adinkra symbols, kente designs, mud cloth prints and ancient Japanese text. Surely that's not too much to ask?

September 28, 2010

Excellent Photos of Ghana

Ghana Photos

If you are traveling to Ghana, I am sure you will enjoy this simple and quick way to find great photos of Ghana. Basically, head to Google Images and begin a search.

A search of "Ghana" brings back a colourful array of images.

A search of "Wli", which is in the Volta Region and a popular traveler's stop, brings back lots of waterfall pics as well as some from the hike to the Upper Falls.

"Kumasi" gives you both a view of downtown--especially crazy Kejetia trotro and market area--as well as traditional ceremonies.

A quick click on "Accra" gives you a strong sense of the capital.

The photos of "Bolgatanga" are actually very representative and give a strong sense of how the area feels.

Shoot me if the photos of "Cape Coast" don't make you want to visit! And it's sister, Elmina, is just a 15 minute drive away.

Ghana Videos!

You can do the same thing with Google Videos. Here is the link to view videos relating to "Elmina". And videos for Accra, Cape Coast (President Obama in Cape Coast) and Kumasi. There are even some for Bolgatanga!

So, you get the idea. Hit Google images search and type in the name of the place you're coming to visit in Ghana. You will get a sense of the place before you even leave home.

Elmina Castle and fishing photo at top by chris_wilson.Black and White fishermen in Cape Coast photo by See Wah.

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