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Regional News Thu, 31 Jul 2008

Beads producers in Eastern Region not being recognized

Koforidua, July 31, GNA - Bead producers in Eastern Region claim they are not being given recognition despite the fact that their trade is the magnet that attracts tourists and provides employment for hundreds of people in the region. They said nothing concrete had been done by policy makers to bolster their trade although bead trading accounts for the high influx of tourists to the region.

Mr Alhassan Mohammed, President of Eastern Beads Association, told the promoting a positive image of the region. He said the vibrancy in beads commerce had not been matched by the development of permanent structures to boost their trade, leaving that sub-sector in a rudimentary form. Mr Mohammed said Jackson's Park in Koforidua where majority of bead producers and buyers transact their business on Thursdays has only temporal facilities to enable them display their wares that are at the mercy of the weather. He appealed to the Eastern Regional Coordinating Council, the New Juaben Municipal Assembly and the ministries of Trade and Tourism to collaborate to establish a cultural village for an integrated development and marketing of works of art in the region.

Mr Hidrir Mohammed, beads vendor in Koforidua, shared similar sentiments as his President, explaining that although "bead selling is a big business, the authorities are refusing to develop the structures" that will ensure its growth and sustainability.

"That (bead trading) is the main thing that brings tourists to Koforidua and a potential source for the development of cultural artefacts in the region to benefit the people," he said. He said current arrangements were so weak to the extent that their patrons are not able to trace them save on their designated Thursday market, which in some instances coincides with national events at the park, meaning not much trading could go on that day. "I want government to build for bead and other art sellers a place we can call our own, a beads market, not just a market." Mohammed is not the sole vendor who is at pains with the poor development of a market for cultural artefacts in the region although it is one of the areas that the region clearly has a comparative edge. Mr Okrah Tetteh and Mr Yohannes Narh, also vendors, said they are worried that the lack of concern by the government in their activities and proper regulation of the operators could kill the industry. They said they support calls for the creation of a cultural village, which could help scale-up their activities. The regulatory aspect, they explain, is to ensure that operators are not ripped-off by charlatans.

They said some bead patrons in the Americas are complaining about the high content of lead in the ceramic dye, a major raw material used in the production process, and called for the intervention of the Ghana Standards Board to ensure that importers of the chemicals comply with requisite supply regulations.

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Mr S.M. Bawa, the Regional Co-ordinating Director, said although the Regional Coordinating Council had been pushing for the development of a sound tourism infrastructure, the actual investment in that sub-sector was left with the district assemblies to pursue because the council had no resources on its own to do that.

He expressed the willingness of the council to facilitate a process that might help bead producers and other such traders get the recognition that they are seeking to promote their venture. The Eastern Regional Director of the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB), Mr Sampson Donkoh, said no effort was made in the past in marketing cultural historical objects beyond citing them in brochures. He said the cultural artefact trade must be given a pedestal where it would become a sustainable aspect of Ghana's commerce and it was in line with that thinking that the GTB was considering the development of a market featuring Ghanaian music, artefacts and food at the same venue. That proposal, he said, would enable bead sellers and wood carvers sell their wares at a centre that also features the production and promotion of folk music, food, clothing and jewellery. Mr Donkoh's proposals are however, not entirely new as there had been moves to that effect by the then Regional Commissioner, Colonel George Minyinla, who started a craft's village as part of a bigger Centre of National Culture (CNC) project.

Although some sections of that project such as the main theatre might become operational by the end of this year, the other segments including the round houses meant for a craft unit are at a stand-still, more than four decades after the development began.

Despite the constraints Mr Kingsley Obeng, Eastern Regional Director of the CNC, said his outfit had been projecting beads during its yearly cultural week fair and other traditional festivals. He said in addition, officials of the CNC in the two Manya Krobo and Yilo Krobo districts, where the bulk of the objects are manufactured for sale in Koforidua, had been marketing them as a source of employment and for the preservation of the rich heritage of the people. He said the CNC was ready to receive the beads sellers granted that the highly deplorable facilities could be made fit for human habitation. "This is their house and we will be happy to receive them", said Mr Obeng, while emphasizing the need to find resources to complete and roof the round houses.

He said of particular importance, was the need for sanitary facilities and the provision of drainage facilities.

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Mr Akwasi Adjei Boateng, New Juaben Municipal Chief Executive, said he supported the revitalization of the CNC project instead of starting something anew. He said the association had been allocated some stalls for bead sellers in the Koforidua Juaben Serwaa market and there was no need to develop a separate market for the operators. This, he explained, is due to the fact that majority of the dealers are itinerant or roving traders who come to Koforidua to sell only on the designated market day.

However, a number of traders at the Juaben Serwaa the GNA interacted with said they did not find that place very conducive to their business and re-echoed the need for a craft village to enable them showcase their wares. Bead trading is part of the Eastern Region's rich cultural trade and a major source of economic activity for hundreds of the people. The region is famed for the production of the 12-layered chevron beads of, which a single unit, the GNA was told, can cost 1,000 new Ghana cedis.

Other bead types include the powdered Krobo glass bead and the 'melliforon' or 'trade' beads which are of high historical value. 31 July 08

Source: GNA