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Taita Taveta basket weavers to access global market

Basket weaving groups scattered across Taita Taveta are now a step ahead in marketing their wares following the signing of a partnership deal between the County government and Gitzellfairtrade International.

In the deal, sisal-woven baskets, locally known as vidasi, will now have direct access to the international market through a supply chain supported by Gitzellfairtrade International and a twice-a-year collection of the ware from women’s groups practising the craft.

“We’re happy to announce our partnership with the County Government of Taita Taveta to help women reach a wide global market for their baskets, and we’re sure it will make a significant impact on household income levels and that of the County as well,” said Zellipah Githui, a Gitzellfairtrade International official.

In her remarks, Githui said the sustainable and global supply chain reaches all markets to ensure competitive prices for the baskets, and a trickle-down benefit will be felt at the household level.

“Ours is a supply chain with a very wide reach to ensure women get competitive prices for their products and positively impact the flow and availability of income flow to the household unit,” said Gichui.

Celebrating the good news and in attendance during the signing of the deal, Hilda Mbuwa, the lead representative of women basket weaving groups, said it has been a big hurdle to get a reliable market for their wares.

“It’s not been easy for women to continue with the craft as there has been no reliable market. Some women have ventured into other economic activities. However, this new market opportunity will ensure a revival of the almost forgotten craft,” said Hilda.

She further said that the burden now shifts to the women as they have to strive to ensure top-quality wares to meet international standards and spur demand for baskets from Taita Taveta.

“Now that we have a market, the ball is in our court to ensure the supply of quality wares to compete fairly in the global market and market our potential as a county,” said Hilda.

In attendance and speaking on behalf of the county administration, Jennifer Dali, Gender and Youth Affairs Advisor, said that Governor Mwadime is committed to supporting women’s groups to meet high quality standards and sustain a steady supply of baskets.

“Now that our biggest hurdle of lacking a good market is solved, our part is to ensure women get the support they need to produce quality wares. The governor and his administration are ready to ensure, among other things, an uninterrupted supply of quality raw materials,” said Dali.

Passed down from one generation to the next generation of womenfolk, and in this case from mother to daughter, basket weaving is one of the oldest traditional crafts in Taita Taveta and across cultures in Africa.

There have been efforts by previous County Administrations to patent baskets from Taita Taveta and the formation of an umbrella association for county basket weavers, but a lack of proper marketing strategy and access to the coveted global supply chain have watered down the overall impact of such initiatives.

By Arnold Linga Masila

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