Community seeks support as indigenes delve into basket-making craft to boost economy

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BY AGNES NWORIE, ABAKALIKI

Following the nationwide clamour for shift from overdependence on oil in Nigeria to other profitable sectors, the people of Ntezi community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State have sought for assistance in order to expand their age long basket making craft and further boost the internally generated revenue of the country.

They made the call recently when The Point visited their community basket market known as Ode.

They urged the state government and other stakeholders to develop the local market and craft to boost the economy of the state and nation in general.

The dealers, stakeholders and natives insisted that when well harnessed, the craft would boost financial independence of the people and reduce the rate of crimes.

A stakeholder from the community who is also Ishielu Local Government Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Chigozie Agu, opined that the craft when harnessed would increase financial independence of the local weavers and dealers, boost internal generated revenue of the state and the country.

He said, “Basket making craft by Ntezi people of Ebonyi State is a very nice agricultural revolution to boost the economy of Nigeria. Because if potentials of this age long craft are harnessed and the local weavers are being encouraged financially via government drafts and other empowerment packages, it will boost internally generated revenue of the state, improve financial independence of the local weavers and dealers as well as showcase the state.

“Every five days, trucks from far Northern states of the nation load baskets from this market and convey them to farmers in Jos, Kaduna, Adamawa, even Cameroon, Niger Republic, among others. These baskets are used for many purposes including transportation of tomatoes, cabbage and peppers. Being perishable foods, the baskets help in protection and easy transportation to the markets in various parts of the country and for export.

“The flat types are used during the preservation process as a flat surface for sun or fire drying of the vegetables. Some are used by hairstyles as a mould or improvised human head for making wigs, long ones are used by fishermen as traps for catching fish where nets are not needed. The raw material is from palm trees. The baskets are of different types, for different purposes.

“The baskets making craft are as old as the people of Ntezi in Ebonyi State. It is basically done by women and elderly men while the young and middle aged men engage in farming. Every family in the Ntezi community has a mini industry where different types and sizes of baskets are weaved for export to the North. I call on the government and individuals to invest in palm plantation to boost the economy of the nation like that of Malaysia which will as well boost the basket making venture as an alternative to overdependence on oil by Nigeria. When communities harness different crafts they are known for, the states and Nigeria in general will be more progressive,” he added.

A 55-year-old local weaver and widow, Mrs. Mary Oseh who said she learnt the craft from her late mother as a child, disclosed that the craft is lucrative and that proceeds from it helped her sponsor her six children in schools.

“We sell the baskets to traders from the North; they always buy in bulk and convey them to their places in lorries. So, before the market days, we strive to weave as many as possible to make bumper sales. Though I have not learned, I know that if the government should have interest in developing the craft, we will be happier because hurdles/stress in the craft will be reduced, maybe via introduction of machines and more will be produced within a short time. We want the government to develop the market for us, increase sales and prices,” she pleaded.

Another native, Mr. Ajifo Hilary called for the government’s intervention to improve market value of the commodity to encourage production.
“From childhood, I see our mothers, sisters and grandmothers making the baskets. When I asked questions they said they all grew up with it. So, I can tell you that the craft is as old as our history itself. So it is an ancient craft. In Ntezi, every family has their own local basket weaving mini industry. On Ode market day, they all bring their products here for sale,” he said.

Some dealers, Godwin Ogbonna and John Nweze who disclosed being in the business for over ten years described it as lucrative and called for development of the age long craft and market.