The Bolgatanga Basket Weavers Association has called on government to invest in the cultivation of straw in the region to make the needed raw materials readily available for basket production.
The Association said basket weaving is one of the major sources of livelihood among many communities in the region but they were faced with the lack of straw to ensure increased efforts in the production of baskets.
They said the vetiver grass, also known as the elephant grass, from which the raw materials were obtained, grows in the Brong-Ahafo and Ashanti Regions and it is quite expensive importing them to the region.
Mrs Akatogre Ayamga, a leader of the Sumbrungu-AsoegoomWeavers Association, made the appeal on behalf of her colleagues at the climax of a five-day product development training organized by the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA).
One hundred and twenty selected weavers attended the event at Asoegoom in the Bolgatanga Municipality.
Mrs Ayamga said urbanization and indiscriminate bush burning in the two regions have resulted in the depletion of the species making it more expensive to obtain.
She said should government through the GEPA empower farmers in the region to cultivate the elephant grass, there would be enough straw for weavers in the region and this would boost efforts in the industry as well as improve on the living standards of rural communities.
Whilst commending Mr Martin Akogti, the Upper East and Upper West Regional Zonal Officer of the GEPA, for organizing the training, Mrs Ayamga appealed for more of such programmes to keep the weavers enlightened with the demands and dynamics of the market.
He said as an agency that deals with the promotion and export of non traditional products, the training was aimed at building the capacity of the weavers to produce products that would meet international standards.
“The new product development training would enhance the capacity of producers to increase diversity, volumes and improve the quality of crafts and build capacities of handicraft producers at all levels,” Mr Akogti said.
“It is expected that the training would improve the livelihoods of the people especially the thousands of women and youth engaged in the basket weaving industry and curb rural urban migration,” he said.
Mr Akogti said a recent study revealed that the vetiver grass could grow well in the region and the GEPA was devising measures to support its cultivation along the valleys and river banks.
This, he said, “would enable the artisans to quickly produce appreciable quantities to meet both local and international demands”.
Mr Bruce Bullu Liman, the Web Content Administrator of the GEPA, said the Upper East Region is the hub of handicrafts and the Authority is developing plans to equip rural women to produce more quality products.