Welcome to the Bolga Market Basket spotlight post of our Leather Series. In this series we aim to lay out all the facts on leather and vegan leather in terms of material sourcing, how leather is treated and tanned, how the traditions and economic status of artisans comes into play, and much more. We hope that you, the ethical shopper, find this post informative and helpful when deciding how to spend your money!
Click here to read the introductory post of this series before diving into this specific product line.
Many of HumanKind’s Ghanaian market baskets have a small piece of leather covering the handle, making the basket more comfortable to carry by covering up any scratchiness with a smooth and durable material. The addition of the leather reinforces the handle to make it last longer while simultaneously serving as a form of decoration. According to our wholesale partner Baskets of Africa, “The leather is obtained from the hide of animals from the slaughterhouses. The animals are not killed just for their hide. The hide is sold out to other artisans who put it to various uses.” Once the leather is purchased, it is skillfully applied to the handle by local leather workers, providing the community with more employment opportunities.
According to Baskets of Africa, “the traditional economy [in this region of Ghana] is basically agrarian. Most people are engaged in cereal production and livestock. This is on the subsistence level as a result of poor rainfall patterns and infertility of the soil. Handicraft activities are a secondary source of income engaged in mostly by women to supplement whatever they get from the farming activities.” As they explain, cattle farming on the subsistence level is one of the few opportunities for employment in Ghana. By crafting leather products in addition to procuring meat, Ghanaians are able to boost their income, especially through partnerships with fair trade companies like Baskets of Africa.
It is also important to note that weaving has been a traditional skill of the Frafra people of northern Ghana for many generations. The soil in Bolgatanga and the surrounding villages (where the baskets are woven) is not fertile enough for extensive agricultural activities, but the kinkahe grass from which these baskets are woven is abundant, making this a very sustainable craft.
Furthermore, because of the infertility of the soil, livestock rearing is a much more secure means of earning an income in this region. Bolga basket weaving is primarily a women’s craft, enabling them to bring their families supplemental income to farming efforts. Baskets of Africa’s mission is to assist these rural women to earn a better income in order to care for their children. They believe that when a woman earns an income she puts food into the bowl of her children, which promotes self esteem
for the women, children, and the entire village.