I could see some children in the distance pumping water from the bore hole well as we drove into the village. There were yellow, blue and silver metal bowls gathered around the pump and they were filling them to drink, bathe with, wash clothing or give to their animals to drink. We got out of out the small taxi and walked over to some of the basket weavers that were now gathering under a tree to say hello. Unfortunately not everyone in the group could attend because March is a funeral month in Northern Ghana and everyone is trying to bury their loved ones before the rainy season starts in April. We then walked with members of the community down a path to the well Ayindisa & Engage Now Africa, our humanitarian partner helped build in November 25, 2011.
To see the water flowing and the pump being used made me so happy, especially all the smiling faces from the children and older women in the village. This time and in particular on this visit I truly saw happiness on their faces and a genuine appreciation for the life giving water and access they now had to it. It improved their lives and this impact was immediately apparent by just everyone who was there enjoying it. I even pumped some water for the children with Dagando and the kids played with the pump like it was their personal playground.
Fetching water used to be a difficult, burdensome and physical act but now it had become fun. They no longer had to walk miles and miles away or carry heavy 5 gallon plastic containers on their heads or backs. The basket weavers and community members started sharing with me how they now bathe in the morning and evening every day. Before the well was built they would only really bathe once or twice in a month. They had even planted a garden at the end of the well which I though was awesome. They were using the well water runoff like gray water and didn’t let it go to waste. They were now growing pumpkins and all manner of vegetables. The fence around the garden even acted as a laundry line where they could hang their freshly washed clothes to dry. The well was in magnificent shape and so was the land around it. They had swept a large area around the well and kept it clean from trash, plastic bags, rocks or debris. The community had kept their word and their well maintenance communities were very active.
On March 8, 2013 the well has been in use for one year and four months and they tell me there have been no water shortages not even in the dry season. The water is cool and deep below the surface. Our investment in working with good companies and constructing high quality and thus more expensive wells is already paying everyone back. I say hi quality because not far from our well is an example of good intentions but poor investment and planning.
There is a well that a reputable organization built in this community but it has been dry and not working now for several years. I do not think many donors to various organizations realize that there are different kinds of wells and various qualities of wells that can be dug and built. Unfortunately, this is not the only well in the area built by local & International NGO’s (Non-governmental organizations) or the local government that do not work and now have the appearance of a well but are really an empty vessel and are now collecting dust. Not to mention many organizations do not even test the water to see if it is actually safe to drink or do what is necessary to make it safe. This is a whole other issue I am not going to get into in this post.
The next big step to be helping the basket weaving group is building them a weaving center or shelter where they can gather as a group year round and be protected from rain in the rainy season and hot sun in the dry season as well as exchange ideas teach each other so they can improve their weaving skills. After saying construction of this would begin this year they said the following.
“DO YOU WANT US TO DANCE AND DIE?”
The group had been waiting patiently and working hard over the years and we had established trust. The well was their first priority but it was still difficult for them to not have a proper shelter to work in. In artisan relationships you should not make promises you cannot ever keep. We wanted to help with a shelter but it simply was not possible so we focused on other things we could do to demonstrate our commitment as a company and devised a plan that all could agree upon. Always keep your word. Nobody likes disappointment. Everyone should be able to share and voice their own concerns and praises. These should not be kept inside. Otherwise division can foster and problems can really come. This is one major piece of advice I would share with anyone thinking about creating a fair trade business. It is in my opinion also one of fair trades greatest principles and strengths. Now we were finally in a position to invest once again in our artisans and the community and they were over joyed and a celebration erupted. I even danced a little which brought tremendous laughter and smiles.
The Ayindisa basket weaving group has a great spirit within it and I believe this spirit can be felt when you touch our baskets as well. You can feel the actual hand and energy of those that make them and all that takes place to get them in our store and into customer’s hands.