Sustainable livelihoods in mining communities is beginning to gain ground among mining firms in Ghana.
For this reason, many people are beginning to invest in community projects that will provide jobs and enhanced livelihoods for members of these communities.
Florence Boafowa a 38-year-old mother of four in the Ntotrosu community, near Sunyani, 400 km north of the capital, has found a new vocation – building bicycles with bamboo which she hopes will help her take care of herself and her family.
When Xinhua met her at a workshop on Friday during a visit to the Ahafo mining site of Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, Boafwa was cutting pieces of bamboo with automated equipment.
“I am a student learning to build bamboo bicycles. I will use the pieces of bamboo I was cutting to build the bamboo frame. The little one is for the bicycle seat. I will then cut a part for the upper tube and another for the lower tube after which I will measure them in the gauge and fit them together,” she explained in the native Twi language.
Boafowa, who abandoned her petty trading, has been learning this new trade for a year after the community leaders made the announcement last year that such a factory was going to be built and employees would be trained and taken on as factory hands.
“I opted for this training to challenge the status quo because most of these artisanal jobs are dominated by males. So I wanted to learn this trade and use myself as a good example to encourage females to venture into such male dominated areas.
“Whatever job they find, they should persevere and not allow males alone to dominate every profession. Also, having one’s own skills is very good because in trading there are times you purchase goods for sale but your customers might not buy; but for the skills, I can always work with it to take care of myself and my family,” Boafowa added.
The factory was set up by the Ntotroso and Gyedu communities with their share of the Community Development Fund provided by Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation (NADeF), which has been mining in the community since 2006, with technical support from the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative under the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) –Bright Generation Foundation.
In all, the Bamboo Bike factory, which started in August 2016, also produces bamboo furniture, dining tables, cups, pen holders and any other handicraft such as bicycles.
During the year-long training for its core production hands, it was able to produce 50 bikes made of bamboo. The center pays stipends to the trainees with which they cater for their families.
“Our production capacity at the moment is 120 bicycles per month. We can even go up with time. For raw materials we have those we source locally, including the bamboo and hamper-fiber and those we source internationally, including the chemicals we use for binding, chains and tires,” Amos Agyapong, Manager of the facility, disclosed.
The cost of one bamboo bicycle is between one thousand Ghana cedis or 224 U.S. Dollars) and 1,500 cedis (335 dollars), and Agyapong said the cost of production adds up to between 70 percent and 80 percent of the price.
“The goal of these community projects is first of all to provide employment for the teeming youth around here and also to help the local economy; the more people that get employed the more people that get something to feed their families with,” Agbeko Azumah, Communications and External Relations Manager of Newmont, Ahafo Mines, explained.
Over the time, Azumah said those being trained would also go out and offer the same training to other members of the communities who would be interested in acquiring similar skills.
“Progress is quite impressive. The basic infrastructure is in place and they are putting systems together; they have trained quite a number of people, and can launch into full-scale production. You heard the manager talk about 120 bikes per month, so we are impressed and we are looking at what the future holds for them,” he added. Enditem