We are currently raising funds to equip a new weaving and sewing workshop for the villagers of Singha in Northern Ghana.
Ghana has a long tradition of weaving cloth. The traditional male clothing is a loose fitting smock called a Fugu. It's made with narrow strips of hand woven cotton, worn with a cap, plain cotton trousers and boots.
Chief Zakaria has estimated that the cost of new looms, sewing machines and all the materials needed to begin this project will come to approx £500.
Our plans have changed slightly since visiting northern Ghana recently.
Whilst visiting Singha in March we had a long talk with the ladies and the Master Tailor. They told us that what they want at the moment are more sewing machines and a building that they could use as a workshop. The building that has been allocated is too small.
There are only 20 young people in the sewing groups at present. The village has just 15 machines - with a population of 1300 people this is obviously very difficult and we were told lots of people want to learn.
The training takes 3-4 years and usually 4 girls graduate each year. At the end of their training they are forced to travel to Kumasi or Accra to work as "carriers" ( carrying peoples shopping from a-b ) to raise money to buy themselves a machine so they can start working. We were told this can take up to 3 years to achieve. A hand operated sewing machine in Ghana costs about £25.
We asked the village organiser to give us a price for a new building - he estimated about £600. He also told us that because the rainy season is about to begin, building could not start until early next year.
In Singha, in the rainy season, the river which is usually 7 miles away swells to lap at the edges of the village.
On this recent trip we also discovered an old weaving centre. We had heard about it, but had been unable to locate it on previous visits. The village is called Zangbulung.
The building is in good condition but the looms are all broken. We were told it was built and equiped by a charity many years before. The villagers had worked hard and paid back the charity so now owned the building and equipment. However, once the looms began to break down they could not afford to repair them, so they are all now idle.
Thirty ladies from the village are skilled in weaving and desperately want to begin weaving again. We were told that the ladies are all getting old and some of them would no longer be able to work the looms. It is very important therefore to re-instate this workshop so the ladies who are still able, can teach the next generation before it is lost.
We have asked for the looms to be assessed. We will then be given a price to have them all repaired.
We were told that the cloth woven is of very high quality. They weave narrow strips for the Fugu and also wider stripes for other uses.
The plan would be that the men of the village grow the plants and harvest them. The plant material would then be spun into thread and the ladies would weave it into cloth. The dyes used would all be natural.
Long term plans would be to then commision the ladies to make products that we could sell here in the U.K. as well as them making cloth that they could sell at local markets.
The village of Zangbulung is on the road to Singha so in theory it is possible for students from Singha to travel here to learn to weave.