Transparency questions : Ghana
the Ghanaian community & Bonnie
When did a weaving business evolve?
The idea was first brought forth when Bonnie-Jo visited the community with Fuseini in 2012. Paperwork was finalized in 2014. Registration with the Ghana Export Promotion Council was completed last year (2016).
A need for development in the community. Sherigu is completely off the radar when it comes to any internal/external funding. We also noticed that most NGO'S in the area were using their funds for "land rovers" and fuel, not to mention "staff". The community has an illiteracy rate of around 90%. The government schools are too far away and so is the village pump. The women of the village spend a large portion of their day fetching water. This is time that could be used for economic development. The women are skilled weavers and if their time could be freed up from just this one task, they could weave more, thereby generating more income.( Basket weaving is their main source of income). Also, we wanted the baskets to fetch fair trade prices since there are a lot of basket "poachers" in that area. The women would walk into Bolgatanga on market day which is every third day but would be met by buyers on the road not willing to pay a fair price, knowing that this would save the weavers the long walk there and back.
Meeting Bonnie inspired Fuseini to legally register it as a non-profit organization, opening up access to international markets and creating more opportunities to improve local living standards. In 2013, through the help of Bonnie-Jo, LOF filled it’s first international order from Canada for baskets and generated the funds needed to register it as an NGO.
What is the mission /vision?
By creating profitable business opportunities for basket weavers via international market access, we can invest in neccessities such as education for our children and access to clean drinking water.
Believing sustainable development comes from communities working together. We embrace a grass roots approach that empowers each villager to contribute towards a healthy and prosperous future for the generations to come.
What system is practiced for organization?
We are still developing a "system"~still at a grass roots level. The organization consists of Fuseini and Bonnie-Jo. Fuseini is the "man on the ground" and determines the needs of the community by holding weekly meetings with the women of the village. Alobahe is the lead woman in the community and she contributes to final decisions. All monies received are put right back into the hands of the weavers and the community. Bonnie-Jo discusses all ideas with Fuseini and together they decide on the best way to proceed. TIA style (this is Africa).
What is your compliance record over the last 3-5 years?
We have completed the foundation footprint for a three room school in compliance with the Government of Ghana with the hope that once the school is finished the government will provide funding for the teachers salaries (it's backwards.....the school must be completed before the government will provide any funding). The first room of the school was finished early this year and we have over 1000 bricks already made to begin the second classroom. The kindergarten school has been outfitted with 20 desks that seat 40 to 90 kids. It also has blackboards and a bookshelf. We have a large amount of books that have been donated and we are currently purchasing the Ghana curriculum books for primary school. Our kids are learning to read and write.We have official government attendance ledgers in order to provide the government with the necessary information they will require for future funding.
The organization has been managing to pay the teachers salaries $100US/month through donations and profit from the baskets since September of 2016. A Little Lending Library, was constructed and installed on the property this past October2017. We also planted 50 trees. Some of them are mango trees and this will help to feed the children and teach them care of the environment and self sustainability. We have also constructed a rudimentary playground.
The happiness of the weavers is a measurement of our impact and success. They are happy that their children are able to attend school to learn how to read and write. The new weaving techniques bring them happiness as well. They are eager to learn new designs and color combinations.
What are the key indicators by which you measure your impact?
There really aren't any other NGO's in the area. However, SWOPA, a women's art and culture project in the Upper East of Ghana has given us ideas we wish to integrate: preserving and promoting traditional weaving skills and the development of new skills to produce baskets for western markets with different designs through on going training and instruction. Just recently, we were contacted by Unravel Co with a new design idea and we have begun work on orders destined for the US. In fact, the school project has galvanized the community. Our most pressing challenge is to dig a bore hole (well) on the school property. Currently all water for drinking, cooking and building must be carried or trucked in. It takes a massive amount of water to make 1000 concrete bricks. It would be wonderful to have a bore hole dug in the next 6 months. A well would help us achieve some of our short/long term goals. We would like to build a guest house in the traditional hut style on the school property in order to provide housing for future volunteers (we have had inquires from teachers all over the world). This guest house could also be used for home stays and also for anyone who wants to come and learn how to weave. Ideally, the school and it's surrounding property will become the focal point of the community.
Sherigu's location alone presents many challenges to development not to mention the harsh sub- saharan climate. There are two seasons, the rainy season April -November and the November - March. The harmattan occurs during the dry season and it is characterized by the dry and dusty northeasterly trade winds that blow in from the Sahara Desert into the Gulf of Guinea. Weather is just one of the challenges. There is also the "African Way" that presents it's own set of obstacles. That's why Fuseini is the "man on the ground". He possesses an incredible ability to get things done and ensure that the money is spent on the community not "land rovers" and throngs of "staff". He is the staff. Progress is slow but steady.
Just getting anything shipped to this part of the world is a monumental achievement. But we have overcome many challenges with the belief and support from all of our donors either through basket purchases or donations.
What makes this organization different from similar organizations?
LOF is unique because it started with just two people discussing ideas on how to make a difference in the world. Just ideas and nothing else. We saw how to NOT run an NGO and how much corruption and money chopping was going on; not to mention multiple sightings of land rovers every hour. We have a long view and are patient. We involved the community and asked them what they wanted and we listened. We have been successful so far because we are not out to fill our pockets or buy a land rover. We are very much the African proverb---If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together. All of us have equal say, everyone is involved in the decision making.
Does your organization encourage its employees to pursue additional education?
We encourage all the women to learn new designs and we have brought in trainers to teach the new skills to everyone. That is our technology. Traditional weaving skills being applied to new designs for international markets. Our weavers adapt very quickly and are happy doing it. Belief in a better future for their children gives the weavers all the motivation they need.
Thank you so much Bonnie + Fuseini