Yajibela – baskets for life from Burkina Faso

It all started, trying to find a way to help women in Burkina Faso to find a means to make a living for themselves and their families. Their tradition is basket weaving, my passion is basket weaving, says Eva Seidenfaden, the initiator of this self help project. Eva says:  “we looked at how my and their knowledge could be made into products that would support the women”. Eva comes from Denmark. 10 years ago, she visited Burkina Faso, one of the poorest African counties. She made it her mission to help with the knowledge she had, basket weaving, and founded  work groups in Ougadougou the capital and in Banfora the South of the country. Suitable materials had to be found and tested for quality, durability and price. The materials where tested, work schedules set up and weaving techniques exchanged and tried out. Transport  had to be organised, wages to be paid, customers had to be found. A simple product, yet an extensive list of tasks to be looked at and consistently followed through. “It has taken a number of years to get all details in order and the production and selling chain working, and now it is a self sustaining, working business”, Eva says proudly, and we salute her!

It takes a day to weave one basket and the women are paid equal pay to what a bricklayer earns a day. 50 women have made more than 3000 baskets until now. The baskets are based on an original Danish basket weaving design but each weaver is encouraged to add their own weaving patterns or colour to their product. A number of different techniques are used and the women choose the technique, pattern and colour for their basket. The shopping baskets are designed to fit into standard supermarket trolleys to make them easy to use for the shopping task. The bicycle baskets have a ‘Klickfix’ device, enabling to easily click the basket on and off a bicycle. The latest project is the waste paper basket, a great universal product for any age, which hopefully will find many fans.

These women do not enjoy the security and comfort of life we are used to. There is no alternative of work available other than heavy, low paid hard labour. The basket weaving is not just paying an acceptable wage, the organised work has helped to create a sense of community, self help initiatives in many aspects of every day needs. From a social point of view the project has brought a very positive spirit with nice atmosphere, creating new ideas and initiatives, instead of long days of hard labour, uncertainty and worries. The baskets are sold in local African markets, in Denmark and now also at Skandium. Eva is proud, her groups of weavers are able to deliver high quality products, stay in budget and deliver in time. This gives high hope, the project will grow, find new markets and give people a steady income. When we buy a basket, we have paid a days wage for the woman who made it, helping each of them to sustain her family.