Zimbabwe Binga Baskets

March 23, 2009 at 16:49 7 comments

Our latest additions to the online store today are two beautiful Binga Baskets from Zimbabwe.

We don’t get many of these (though hopefully we will have more soon) so they are unlikely to be in the store for long.

Zimbabwe Binga Basket (Large)

Zimbabwe Binga Basket (Large)

Here’s some background to the baskets:

The remote Binga district is home to the severely disadvantaged BaTonga people. In the early 1960’s, their fertile lands were permanently buried in water during construction of one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, Lake Kariba, and they were forced to relocate to their current lands that are barren and difficult to farm.

Today, some women traditionally still use wild grasses and palm leaves dyed with tree bark to weave intricately patterned baskets. These shallow bowls are still used today to winnowgrains, especially the largest of sizes.

We get these baskets from a wholesaler called Baskets of Africa, (like Global Fayre, they are members of the Fair Trade Federation) and they give this description of what it takes to track them down:

Due to the politics in Zimbabwe, these baskets are becoming more difficult to come by. It was no easy task before the political situation began to heat up…

To start collecting, a two day bus trip out to the Binga area is taken with much of the second day being on dirt roads. Then our representative walks miles and miles to go hut by hut to find the ambuyas, the elderly grandmothers that still weave the higher quality baskets. He carries the baskets back to the bus depot and brings them to the capital city of Harare for tagging, packing and shipping to the US.

Why do we collect baskets in this manner instead of buying from consolidators and middlemen? This is the only way we can fully ensure that the weavers are paid fairly for their work while also ensuring we locate the highest quality Binga baskets available.


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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. basketsandboxesandbows  |  March 24, 2009 at 15:41

    Very Interesting!

  • 2. Rodwell  |  March 10, 2010 at 09:41

    Just to set the record straight. Those ambuyas who weave these unique baskets formed an Association called Tonga Craft Producers Association and they own Binga Craft Centre located on the Binga Growth Point (Business Centre). Their contact number is 00263115247 and are struggling to produce a website of their own. The craft centre has been facing challenges such as these companies that avoid paying the right price set by a board of mansgment comprised of these ambuyas as you call them. If fair trade is to be meaningful, Binga Craft Centre should be assisted to get what these women’s skill is worth. The companies that go direct to the producers as narrated above do not use cash in most cases. They bring with them used clothes and other items that are not available in the villages and this has become worse after Zimbabwe abandoned its local currency.
    These ambuyas have no access to foreign currency as it is mostly not used when purchasing the crafts. How do you expect these ladies to buy food and pay school fees when you dont pay them in cash? The raw material they use is depleting fast and the few plots they had created for the lala palm are overwhelmed by the vast number of people who have turned into basket production. The main tree used for the creation of the dye is drying up as the bark is not given any chance to develop. These middle men are not investing in the sustainable use of resources but are after maximising profit.

    Theses same Ambuyas are looking after orphans and some are widows or in polgamous families. It pains to read this promotion of a middleman in the name of fairtrade. Why do you avoid paying fare prices set by the Craft Centre as part of the money is used in sustainable utilisation of the resources used. I am only echoing what these ambuyas always say and if you are in doubt, travel to Binga and ask for the first woman who started this project. She is in her 80s and lives in Kariangwe under Chief Siansali.

    Food for thought fair trader

    • 3. globalfayre  |  March 14, 2010 at 21:52

      Thank you for your comments.
      Whilst we don’t directly deal with the basket weavers (as explained in the original post) we do have enough information from our contact to be satisfied that they are adhering to fair trade principles, and that their method of trade does not match your description.
      However, I’m sure there are plenty of operators in the region that operate as you describe.

  • 4. Matabbeki Mudenda  |  September 15, 2010 at 09:14

    It interesting to note how many people are aligning themselves to the work done by Binga Craft Centre. If one was to descend down to the Binga craft centre , one would find that some people who write a lot about promoting the life of weavers in Binga are a group of “vultures” who are aiming at enriching themselves through attracting order from the foreign markets because, they have access to internet, have some comodits to exchange with baskets no matter their value. Binga craft centre still applaud MS – Zimbabwe who did much work when Zim economy was still okay during the 2005 ended partnership . second was the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe for the support in 2007 & 2008 if it was not for the bad economic situation. The 3rd most important is The New Basket Workshop , as South African NGO that helped Binga craft centre to designand develop the new products. The 4th helping hand came from Hand Arround The world , a USA organization who have helped Binga craft centre by making an order every year for the past 5 years or so. At one point this organization promoted marketing by providing passports fees for the Binga craft centre staff to enable them follow the custormers where they are mailny south Africa.

    At some points Hand around the World hepled Binga craft centre with funds for tree planting and ilala plot was established which will be sustainable resource provision to weavers.

    These other writtings I have been seeing on the net is coming from “vultures” who want to identify themselves with the work once done by other people but having done nothing tangible as yet.
    Binga craft centre is still in a dilema for funding and some of its important programs that involves resource management and quality control workshops are grounded as of now and the centre has no vehicle.

    Compiled by Matabbeki Mudenda
    Manager Binga craft centre

  • 5. Anonymous  |  April 2, 2012 at 08:30

    How do I contact the bing a craft centre by telephone?

    • 6. Al  |  April 11, 2012 at 20:25

      Try cell 00263 775251905

    • 7. globalfayre  |  August 13, 2012 at 21:16

      sorry – can’t help you with that


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