Handicraft heaven

On my last day, we found ourselves in what I can only describe as ‘handicraft heaven’.  We have recently started working with a buyer in the US but all their handicrafts are procured via women’s groups based in Ghana.  These include clothes for women, children and babies as well as gift and homeware items, all made from batik-work.  There are Christmas decorations made from the typical West African glass beads and many soap products, including the well-known African black soap.  These items are also sold locally in a retail store behind the Koala supermarket.  Whilst one of the directors relocated to Ghana from the US over 10 years ago, much of the work is carried out by volunteers without whom the organisation would be much the poorer.

During the week, I have been introduced to some of the local fayre which is very different to the foods I am used to.  There is Fufu which is either cassava (a root crop like maize) or yam that has been boiled and then pounded and there is also Banku which is a fermented corn dough.  Both are eaten dipped into say an okra stew.  I was advised against them with this being only my first ever trip to West Africa; my colleagues were concerned that I would find them very hard to digest.  Instead I safely, and unadventurously, opted for the chicken and ‘Joloff’ rice which was really very nice.  (This rice is cooked in a type of stew and the word is apparently borrowed from the Wollof dialect of Senegal and Mali).  Throughout my stay I partook of the wonderful fresh fruit and juices; my particular favourite was the local bananas which are small, marked, bruised and full of flavour!

As always, the visit passed very quickly.  That said, it was very worthwhile and we achieved nearly everything we set out to achieve.  John is due to travel to the UK at the end of this month in order to complete his induction programme and to attend our AGM in March.  Thereafter he will return home where he should be able to find further lending opportunities for Shared Interest and more importantly bring benefit to more producer groups in need.



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