“This training is very helpful. I have learnt a lot of things that would improve my work when I leave here and go back to my place of work,” Yaw Owiredu Mintah, a bamboo and rattan processor, says.
Yaw is an all-round processor of bamboo and rattan trees, a trade that has become his source of livelihood for the past 30 years.
“I started in the 80s and I can do all the things, weaving, framing and finishing,” he adds “But I need to improve my skills and designs because all of us are most of the time doing the same things. That is why I am happy this training is taking place,” he stresses.
Yaw is among some one hundred local artisans selected to benefit from a month’s skills development training in bamboo and rattan processing in Ejisu, a suburb of Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
Coming from all parts of the country, the participants, including two women from the Greater Accra Region, are receiving transfer of knowledge and ideas from the seven technical trainers, five translators and two administrative support staff, facilitating the activity.
According to research, Ghana has lost over 60 percent of its forests from 1950 to 2000. Since 2000, it has had a deforestation rate of three percent.
A report by Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI), a past project of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, shows that the general depletion of forests has led to the reduced production of wooden furniture and reduced exports of plywood and flooring.
However, the report reveals that as bamboo grows in the wild in Ghana, there could be a market for bamboo furniture, plywood and flooring and other products generally manufactured from timber.
Bamboo and rattan trees have been identified as important commodities in the country. The processing of this — from raw material to finishing — employs thousands of people across the country.
But processing of these important commodities has been a challenge since most of the artisans do not use modern methods which affect the final products put on the market.
Most of the time, these products – mostly furniture- including baskets, tables, chairs and cupboards made from bamboo and rattan are displaced under tree canopies along Ghana’s major streets, where local artisans sell them.
Thus, training such as this, especially for local artisans, are important for the overall development of the industry.
Maame Akosua, one of the two female participants of the workshop, says without the workshop by INBAR, she would not have improved her skills in finishing of the bamboo and rattan products she has been making and selling back home on the Spintex road in Accra.
“For me, this is very helpful because now I know how to use these machines in finishing our work to make it more beautiful which will give increase the income I get for selling these furniture.
The training follows a request made by the government of Ghana to the government of China under its South-South Bilateral Cooperation to support the development of skill capacity of people whose livelihood depend on bamboo and rattan in Ghana.
Accepting the request, the Chinese government through the overseas training outfit of the International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan-ICBR, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation-INBAR, in collaboration with the Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme-BARADEP of the Ministry of Lands & Natural Resources, began the skills development training three weeks ago at the Forestry Commission’s technical centre in Ejisu.
Dai Honghai, Director of the Foreign Aid Programme of ICBR, indicates that the training sessions has impacted greatly on the participants’ raw material handling, creativity and innovation and their application of tools to improve and enhance product processing and finishing.
“It is expected that this training will impact the market and marketing of the bamboo and rattan products to meet both local and international market and standard. We have been here for three weeks and it is going well,” he adds.
Mr. Honghai says the participants are already mastering the use of the tool and are already making products from what they have been learning.
“You can see the products, all together 150 products are been made from bamboo rattan and wood materials for exhibition at the end of the training next week.
We try to combine all the materials locally to make the product so that after we return to china they can still use the local material,” Mr. Honghai indicates.
Programmes Manager of BARADEP, Madam Faustina Baffour Awuah, states that the government of Ghana has a special interest in developing the bamboo and rattan sector as well as improving the livelihood of workers in that field.
“We have been engaging them and we thought this will be a good programme for their skills development because with this they can create better products which will earn them better income and improve their lives,” she says.
Michael Kwaku, Country Director INBAR, Ghana, who explained the need for such corporation, says that bamboo and rattan are part of the fastest growing species that have been identified in place of other sources of wood.
He indicates that the rate of maturity of the bamboo and rattan tress and their environmental benefits are so enormous in terms for using it for landscaping restoration of degraded lands and supporting afforestation.
“This biliteral cooperation is by extension INBAR support to her member or affiliate countries to improve income of people involved in the bamboo and rattan industry and reduce poverty,” he mentions.
Mr. Kwaku says the training has an overall objective of serving as an applied technical capacity to help utilise the proposed establishment of a bamboo and rattan common facility and training centre in Accra by the government of Ghana with funding from the government of China.
“We want them to have a common place where they can go and process their raw materials using these new tools. So once they have this training when the place is established they can go and use the modern tools at the facility to work and enhance their lives,” he adds.
Mr. Kwaku also states that the use of bamboo has both environmental and economic benefit to the environment.
Explaining the critical role of INBAR to the success of the workshop, Mr. Kwaku reveals that the organisation played the leading role in selecting local artisans for the workshop, especially processors in Kumasi and Accra, by ensuring that deserving master artisans got into the programme so they could serve as trainer of trainees when they return to their base.
He stresses that as the major coordinator of the workshop, INBAR took charge of the logistics for the training by liaising with the Forestry Commission Training Centre on the tools and equipment imported into the country for the purposes of the workshop.
“INBAR Ghana office trained the artisans on the theoretical component through PowerPoint presentations to educate them on bamboo skills, technological gaps and the needs to enhance their capacities. We also facilitated and supported our key training partner the International Centre for Bamboo and Rattan-ICBR and the Chinese delegation in undertaking a pre and post training assessment and evaluation,” he says.
Meanwhile, Yaw and Akosua are planning to see how they could access these simple tools after the training to enhance their work.
“I want to get these simple tools because what will be the impact if we cannot use them after we have learnt and trained with them here,” Akosua points out.
“One thing I have learnt from this training so far is the application of the simple tools to have a perfect finishing. You know the beauty and worth of a product is its finishing and we have been taught how to use these simple tools for finishing,” Yaw says.
By Jamila AkweleyOkertchiri