The straw basket and handbag makers of northern Ghana are drawing a lot of attention lately– enough, in fact, that two of my clients have each sent me to the region on separate occasions in recent months to get a close up glimpse of these fashionable totes. The groups that make them have banded together in cooperatives in order to buy supplies in bulk and save and lend amongst each other. Some groups have even managed to find financial backing and gain certified Fair Trade status, which would explain why Shared Interest, a fair trade investment firm, sent me there to capture these entrepreneurs at work.
The colorful hand bags and baskets are crafted by groups of women using straw that is first rolled and split with their teeth, then dyed in vibrant colors before being woven into intricate patterns by hand. It’s a tradition that’s long been passed down through the generations in northern Ghana. However, it’s one that’s now being taken up by more and more women as climate change and the encroaching Sahel disrupts the ability to make a living through farming. The area’s seasonal rainfall patterns have been upended, bringing floods in some years and droughts in others. Catholic Relief Services has recently been helping to move women of Ghana into alternative livelihoods such as basket weaving, all while sounding the alarm on the dramatic consequences of climate change for some of the world’s poorest.
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