"Little by little by little, with each little bit, a little becomes a lot." - African proverb
In the harsh climate of the Upper East Region of Ghana, farmers have little hope of earning income from their tiny harvests, and often can barely feed their families. The average rainfall in this region ranges from 19-31 inches, and the soil is mainly developed from granite rock. Because 79 percent of the population is rural, most people in this region are farmers, but most of what they grow goes to the family for survival. Almost nine out of 10 children in the region suffer some level of anemia, and malnutrition has reached close to the WHO threshold for a serious situation warranting an urgent intervention. Harsh climate, coupled with illiteracy and lack of employable skills, has resulted in the largest increase in extreme poverty of any region in Ghana. According to the Ghana Statistical Service, 90 percent of the residents who live in the Upper East Region live in poverty, and the face of those living in extreme poverty belongs to a rural woman. Most heads of households are women, and they have limited access to or control over resources such as water and land. Decision-making on land at the community level tends to be dominated by male village chiefs, and elders or heads of clans. At best, a woman can expect to obtain temporary use of a plot of land from her husband, if he feels he can spare the woman’s labor. Unmarried women seldom have access to land. Widows tend to lose access to land unless they have male children. When women do gain use of small plots, they are usually the plots that are farthest away and the least productive.
Many women survive only by finding a way to earn additional income. Many women are basket weavers, a skill that is unique to this region in Ghana, however they still do not earn enough from the sale of their baskets to adequately feed and educate their children.
Rising Village is entering this Upper East Region of Ghana by focusing on the Gambibigo and Winkogo communities. We will identify women who need capital to build their basket-weaving business, provide them grants to produce baskets, and then sell these baskets to further encourage the market and open doors for more women weavers. The baskets, referred to as Bolga baskets, are made of elephant grass that is split, rolled and dyed. The results are beautiful baskets of varying colors and sizes.
The project coordinator for this region is our newest staff person in Ghana, Kenneth Hayu, who lives in the Upper East Region and is familiar with the culture of the region and the needs of the rural people. We will be starting our Income Generation work here with two women weavers who will receive grants, training, and support so they can earn sustainable income and expand their business within their community and beyond.
When we began our work in Ghana, we decided that to make a big difference in the lives of villagers we had to start small and build - one person, one community at a time. We continue this belief with our work in the Upper East Region of Ghana.
In February, we will introduce the first two women in our UER Income Generation program. We invite you to join us as we provide the grants and open markets for the baskets these women will be weaving.