The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Ngamiland Basket Weavers Trust (NBWT) to close shop. The Etsha-based shop was a central market for both local and international guests on transit to the Okavango Delta.
The trust, which specialises in weaving baskets using skills and indigenous knowledge handed down through generations, heavily depended on international tourists and campsites operating in the delta. But since the restriction of movement due to COVID-19, it has been running at a loss. The trust manager, Katenya Pithatho, confirmed in an interview with BOPA that the pandemic had adversely affected business.
Pithatho said efforts were being made to give the weavers, most of them women, hope and encourage them to continue exploiting their talents. She said the trust, comprising about 50 women, use the proceeds from the baskets to support their immediate families, distant relatives and orphans.
Pithatho said the trust enjoyed support from government departments and the public. She stated that they had a lot of their stock appeals to the government and Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) both of whom find ways through which to assist them. She highlighted that since 2018, they had seen a decline in business, which has now been exacerbated by COVID-19. Worse still, she noted that while some sectors of the economy had benefited from the COVID-19 wage subsidy, their trust members did not receive anything.
NBWT was an open membership community-based organisation, representing basket weavers across Ngamiland region. The trust did not only focus on making profit but also helped train women in basket-weaving techniques and encouraged the sustainable harvesting of materials. The trust also provided lessons on business management and entrepreneurship.
Through the trust, they sought to preserve Botswana’s unique heritage while also giving members the tools and skills to navigate the modern world, she said. The weavers draw inspiration for their intricate patterns from nature, incorporating the rich variety of wildlife and vegetation in the delta into various patterns. She explained that this was done to showcase what Botswana has to offer in terms of tourism.
Ngamiland Basket Weavers Trust contact details and social media handles:
Tel: (+267) 72 930 565
Facebook: Ngamiland Basket Weavers Trust