Maun — 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 specialised in weaving baskets, depended on international tourists and camp sites operating in the delta, but since restriction of movements, it had been running at a loss.
The trust manager, Ms Katenya Pithatho, confirmed in an interview that the pandemic had affected their business and also brought sorrow to weavers, mostly women.
The weavers, she said, had been depressed, but efforts were made to give them hope and encourage them to continue exploiting their talents.
She said the trust was made up of 50 women, who were supporting not just their immediate families, but also distant relatives and orphans.
Ms Pithatho said weaving gave the trust members an opportunity to make profits through their skills and indigenous knowledge.
The trust, she said, also enjoyed support from government departments and individuals.
She stated that they had a lot of stock at the shop and appealed to government and Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) to find ways to assist them.
Ms Pithatho explained that they had experienced low business since 2018, adding that they found a niche last year December when they participated at Nyeletso Lehuma Pitso in Gaborone.
While some sectors of the economy benefited from the COVID-19 wage subsidy, Ms Phithatho noted that trust members did not benefit.
NBWT was an open membership community-based organisation, representing basket weavers across Ngamiland region.
The trust did not only focus on making profit, but it also helped to train women in basket weaving techniques and encouraged sustainable harvesting of materials. It also provided lessons on business management and entrepreneurship.
Ms Phithatho noted that through the trust, they sought to preserve Botswana's unique heritage of handicrafts, while also giving members tools and skills to navigate the modern world.
Furthermore, she explained that they were imparting knowledge to their children so that they could sustain the foundation they laid.
The baskets were made from dried palm fronds harvested from young palm trees and Ms Phithatho pointed out that they took inspiration for their intricate and stylish patterns from nature, adding that they incorporated the rich variety of wildlife and vegetation in the delta into different patterns.
The usage of animals and other resources in the baskets, she said, was meant to showcase what the country could offer in terms of tourism.
Source : BOPA