The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
LUPANE Women Development Trust (LWDT)’s artefacts project has managed to play a pivotal role in breaking the yoke of poverty and improving food security at most households in rural communities in Matabeleland North, at a time the effects of drought are being felt throughout the country.
LWDT marketing manager Mrs Khayelihle Sibanda said a majority of the weavers attached to the organisation were making a living despite the economic challenges and the drought being faced by the country.
“We are very impressed about the performance of our basketry project. In the just ended month (February) we managed to generate over $150 000 from selling the wares both locally and from the export market with one of the women realising over $2 000 from the sale of two sisal rug pieces.
“It’s becoming evident that despite the economic challenges being faced in the country these women are making a living out of basketry. Most of them are now devoting most of their time towards weaving instead of going to crop in the fields as they are unlikely to reap much due to the drought,” she said.
The Trust has since embarked on a monitoring programme aimed at encouraging its members to improve the standard and quality of their products buoyed by an overwhelming demand on the local and international market.
“The demand for our basketry products is very high as it is, we already have overwhelming orders within the country and beyond. We are in the process of mobilising the women so as to monitor the quality of their products and to ensure they meet their daily needs in the wake of the drought,” said Mrs Sibanda.
LWDT has a membership of 435 women that are into production of contemporary crafts such as interior decorative ornaments like vases, lamp shades, mats and office trays.
“We are still engaged in partnerships with Zubo Trust in Binga and Sabona Trust in Hwange. Only two weeks ago we got a huge consignment of Tonga palm pots from Zubo Trust and we have already sold most of them. We are also in the process of co-opting weavers from Nkayi as we move to curb the negative stereotype that women are always dependent on their husbands. Basket weaving is mostly synonymous with women as it is widely regarded in our society as a feminine practice, thus we want as many women as possible to embrace this craft to improve their livelihoods and that of their families,” said Mrs Sibanda.
The Trust put up five palm fibre (hyphaene petersiana known as ilala) plantation in various areas in Lupane District to ensure availability and access of the raw material used in production of contemporary crafts.
“We assisted in putting-up five palm fibre plantations at strategic areas across the district and taught the women how to harvest the plant sustainably but making sure it keeps sprouting and growing,” said Mrs Sibanda.
One of the members, Mrs Sakhile Sibanda of Tshongogwe said she has managed to make improvements at her homestead as well to fend for her family from the income generated through the sale of her contemporary crafts.
Apart from artefacts, the Trust has other projects such as goats and chickens rearing, marketing garden and micro business projects.