Social enterprise Savanna Baskets works with approximately 700 artisans from rural communities of Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Savanna Baskets is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty, offering safe and empowering working conditions, preserving eco-conscious practices, and providing artisans with fair, dignified wages on their path to independence.
The majority of the artisans identify as women; artisans also include people with disabilities, indigenous populations, refugees or displaced peoples, and widows. They range in age from 18 to 65 years old. The Bolgatanga area is primarily known as a farming community. By tradition, women are not permitted to own farmlands but are required to work on the farms owned by the men in their families. Combined with the weather conditions, these factors lead to these women being economically vulnerable.
Through the traditional weaving technique and their work with Savanna Baskets, they are able to make, market, and sell their beautiful Bolga baskets — allowing them to earn their own sustainable income and support their families. Savanna Baskets works to develop a collaborative partnership with these artisans, bringing the rural communities together into cooperatives. Artisans often work from home but also come together at various weaving centers to collaborate on orders, learn new designs, and review pricing.
Savanna Baskets is committed to environmentally practices. These baskets are made from natural, locally sourced materials. The raw material used is straw harvested from tropical grass grown in the wild, called veta vera grass. It primarily grows in wild, uncultivated lands and along the streams. It is not cut from the base, but the matured straw holding the flower part of the grass is harvested. In this way, new straw can grow back in a couple of months after the harvest.
This straw is harvested, sun-dried, and split individually from one end almost to the other. Then, it is rolled into a twist. Based on the basket, the rope may stay twisted for single-weave baskets or become untwisted for double-weave baskets. To start the weaving, long strings of ropes, known as poles, are held together with another rope. This second rope is passed in and out around the poles.
Artisans working with Savanna Baskets have access to essential programs including healthcare, microfinance opportunities, and training. Furthering its commitment to the community, Savanna Baskets set up a Weavers’ Fund to support artisans with immediate needs such as medical care and housing. There is also a designated fund for a borehole in the communities in which they work in order to provide safe drinking water.