Kwabre East

Article by Joseph Edusei and Padmore Adusei Amoah

 A Brief Background

The Kwabre East District puts a lot of priority on tourism development. The touristic/cultural activities constitute the second major economic activity in the District behind agriculture. The District therefore aspires to be the most popular tourists’ destination in the Ashanti region. The district is located almost at the central portion of the Ashanti region. The District shares boundaries with Sekyere South District to the North; Kumasi Metropolitan Area to the South; Ejisu Juaben District to the East; Afigya Kwabre to the West (Kwabre East District, 2010).
Adanwomase is the most popular kente weaving centre in the district. As at 2010, the population of Adanwomase stood at 5,287. It has consistently been the royal weaving village for the Asantehene and the Ashanti kingdom. It is the first royal kente weaving enclave in the Ashanti region. The Adanwomase Tourism Management Team is a community based volunteer organization responsible for promoting friendly, hassle-free tourism in Adanwomase. All profits earned through tourism are used for the benefit of the entire community. Ahwiaa is also historically noted for wood carving both in Ashanti region and Ghana. The town is located on the main Kumasi-Mampong highway about 14 kilometers north of Kumasi in the Kwabre East District in Ashanti region, Ghana. Ahwiaa population was about 31,172 in the year 2010. Wood carving constitute one of the commonest economic activities in the town although there have been reports of decline in the wood carving activity recently (Adu-Agyem, Sabutey, & Mensah, 2013; Kwabre East District, 2010).

Cultural Tourism Development in Kwabre East District

With regards to its cultural tourism potential, the Kwabre East District aims at making the District the number one tourist site in the Ashanti Region and among the strongest in Ghana. Relevant measures and interventions have therefore been enacted over the years to promote the tourism sector in the district. The Assembly has inaugurated a committee on culture which is charged with identifying and developing inventible cultural sites, practices and values that can promote tourism. The committee has sub-committees at the various towns and villages that have recognised tourist sites (Kwabre East District, 2006). Grand festivals of chiefs and people of Kwabre East District are organised to showcase the various cultural assets of the District. In partnership with donor agencies such as European Union and the Nature Conservation Reserve Centre, the Assembly has constructed a visitors’ centre, formed a Tourism Management Team and has constructed a weaving shed at Adanwomase. Other physical interventions include the construction of modern washrooms for Ahwiaa and Ntonso tourist centres and the construction of a craft village at Ahwiaa for the carving industry. Moreover, training programmes have also been organised for craftsmen in the cultural tourism industry by the District Assembly in conjunction with the Business Advisory Centre (BAC) in the District. The training regimes often included financial and business management training. The artisans have also been assisted to form cooperative societies and given technical assistance in writing a constitution. There have also been skill training programmes for the physically challenged in the various touristic activities (kente weaving, wood carving and Adinkra making) by the District Committee on Culture. As part of empowering inhabitants to take advantage of craft industry, there were regular community gatherings especially at Adanwomase to educate the inhabitants on how relate to visitors.
Moreover, conversations with the craftsmen revealed that, visit to the tourist sites was seasonal and irregular. Some craftsmen received tourists on daily basis while others did on weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. The magnitude of tourists at Adawomase was very high as compared to that of Ahwiaa. About 80 % of craftsmen and traders at Adawonmase received tourists on daily basis whereas the artisans and traders at Ahwiaa received the majority of their customers/tourists on monthly basis. Records at the Adanwomase Tourists Centre showed that, on the average, 85 people visited the Adanwomase. In 2009, total international and domestic tourists at Adanwomase were 883 and 146 respectively. This is not surprising as the Adanwomase site was more developed, well managed and enjoyed more advertisement than that of the Ahwiaa site. However, estimates by the craftsmen indicated that, between 46 and 50 tourists visited Ahwiaa every month. These tourists as well as other local visitors were a major customer base for the artisans.

However, these interventions were not popular among especially the people of Ahwiaa. For instance, about 36.7 % of the craftsmen were not aware of some of policy initiatives to promote cultural tourism in the community. One carver therefore stated that;
“They are not doing anything....I do not believe they even know we exist.... We do not get any help from them...We need wood for our work but they are not doing anything to help us.....instead they levy our meagre incomes. I do not think they are actually interested in what we do here.”
This was hugely attributed to the lack of coordination between the leaders and the craftsmen especially at Ahwiaa where 60 % of the craftsmen expressed utter ignorance on some of the interventions geared at their development especially the craft village (see also Amoah, 2014). To some extent, this is in line with the assertion that, "local residents are frequently under-represented in the tourism development, both as investors and decision makers. This is because, they lack knowledge of tourism and associated skills, and because of the priority placed upon economic growth by the policy" (Liu & Wall, 2006, p. 159).
1.4 The Cultural Tourism Development and Employment Creation Nexus
The two touristic activities are also major economic activities aside from their cultural significance in Ghana. Thus, any attempt to boost the tourism sector in the district subsequently creates more employment avenues. This assertion is also shared by Kreag (2001, p. 2) who states that; “For decades, tourism industry growth has been a major contributor to increased economic activity throughout the.....world. It has created jobs in both large and small communities and is a major industry in many places". Due to the presence of the various employment opportunities in the agriculture (crop farming), service and commerce sectors as well as industrial activities such as saw-milling and other forms of wood industries, 87 % of participants in the household survey who were also in the economically active age group in the two study areas were employed living only 13 % unemployed. Table 1 shows the employment status of respondents.

Source: Kwabre East District Baseline Survey; February, 2011
The majority (49.4%t) of participants were employed in the industrial sector especially the carving and weaving activities either as artisans or traders. Moreover, 86.0% of those employed in the industrial sector had their occupation either directly or indirectly related to kente weaving or wood carving. Furthermore, 56.0% of households had at least one member directly or indirectly involved in the weaving or carving industry. These statistics show the immense contribution of the two cultural and touristic activities towards employment creation.
1.4.1 Forms of Employment Created through the Wood Carving Industry
According to the estimates by the participants from the Ahwiaa community, about 391 people were directly and indirectly employed in the wood carving industry in Ahwiaa. The employment avenues created by the wood carving industry at Ahwiaa could be categorised into four main groups. These groups are described below:

Carvers:

The skill of carving is traditionally part of the lives of indigenous Ahwiaa inhabitants. The skill was informally taught to young males. However, modernisation opened the activity into a fully fledged economic industry. Acquiring the skill therefore require the same process as learning any other economic trade. Traditionally, females are not allowed to carve as it is deemed indecent for a woman to spread her legs and place a block of wood between them for carving (Adu-Agyem et al., 2013; Amoah, 2014). The females were however actively involved in the carving activities. They were often traders in carving related items as well as the carvings itself.

However, owing to continual drop in market for the products over the years, the industry has lost considerable number of carvers (Okrah, 2002). There were a lot of inactive carvers in the town:
"All those boys there know how to carve (points to a group of boys sitting not far from where interview was held)....They are no more interested in the carving business because it does not pay much these days. At first, almost every young man in this town carved" (Mofa, 55 year old carver)
Estimates by the all the participants from the Ahwiaa community disclosed that, there were approximately 58 full time carvers who were actively working in the community. There were however over 100 part time carvers. Of those actively working, 66.6 % of them earned between GH¢150 and GH¢300 per month ($55.6 and $111.1 monthly). A significant number of carvers representing about 16.7 % also earned an average of GH¢800 ($296.3) a month. These were carvers who had already market through their connections with exporters and other high earned traders. This profit levels was appropriate with respect to the current daily minimum wage in Ghana which stood at GH¢5.24 (approximately $1.92) (WageIndicator, 2014). To some extent, the economic gains to the carvers therefore contradicted the assertions of some schools of thought that tourism related jobs may be less beneficial and demeaning (Baum, 2007; Choy, 1995).

Makers/Sellers of Input Materials

Wood is the primary input material for wood carvers. However, aside from wood, carving requires other essential inputs (Okrah, 2002). Such inputs were often sold and even manufactured within the community. There were thus a number of blacksmiths (see figure 2); merchants of essential white glue, special carving polish, beads, brass plates and wood which are used in designing the artefacts and sandpapers. In all, there were approximately 11 people involved in this kind of job.


Among the people employed in this area, 83.3 % earned between GH¢100 and GH¢250 ($37 and $92.6) as profit monthly. Moreover, due to absence of requisite wood for carving in Ahwiaa, some individuals had found employment by arranging for wood for the carvers from relevant sources. Some carvers also liaised with authorised timber contractors to ascertain wood (Adu-Agyem et al., 2013). The carvers estimated that there were at least 5 people involved in this business including some of the carvers themselves.


Product Finishers:

This activity constitutes the final stages of the carving process. The duty of the carvers entailed moulding the wood into the desired shape. The process was then left in hands of 'finishers' who completed the activity. The main activities involved in the finishing stage included: sandpapering, designing, and polishing. The designers made special forms of art or designs on the sculptures right after carving. They often used beads and brass plates and made special inscriptions and arts using special knives and tools. This was then followed by sandpapering and polishing to end the process. Although, many of the carvers could do the work of the finishers, the cumbersome nature of the carving itself left them with little time to finish the product themselves. They thus often contracted the finishers complete their products. Owners of carving shops as well as traders who ordered products from carves had the responsibility to finish their products themselves. They also hired some of these finishers to have their products ready for the market. These finishers often ranged between the ages of 15 and 50 years. There were thus children of school going age who used the activity to supplement their family income and to support themselves in school as explained by one of the young product finishers:
"...I do this almost every day....I do it after school. My uncle is a carver so he gets me a lot of works.....Sometimes I give part of my income to my mother. I use the rest as pocket money for school and to buy other personal items " (Bref, 17 year old boy).
According to the estimates by the carvers and shop owners, there were about 128 people employed as finishers in the community. Although this employment category did not fetch enough income as compared to the other ones, many of them survived solely on the income generated from this activity. The majority (42.9%) of the finishers earned between GH¢80 and GH¢150 ($29.6 and $55.6) monthly. However, the designers often earned a more decent income of an average of GH¢ 350 per month.


Traders:

This category consisted of traders involved in the end product of the carving industry. There were basically three kinds of traders when it comes to the marketing of the products namely: Local store owners, retailers and exporters. The local store owners consisted of community members who kept artefact shops within the community. These shop owners often contracted the carvers for the artefacts; finished them and either kept them in their shops or sold to retailers and exporters. On the one hand, the retailers moreover dealt with customers from other towns and cities within the country especially Kumasi, Takoradi and Accra. The exporters on the other hand consisted of both local and international companies as well as individuals within and outside Ahwiaa. These companies included: Mar/Maxx, T.K Maxx, Target Group and, Cost Plus. Some individuals within the District also exported products either by themselves or in their capacity as agents for foreign organisations. Estimates by households and craftsmen in the community revealed an average of 189 traders involved in the industry. Moreover, the work of the exporters provided jobs in form of carton making. These people made cartons using cardboards. The cartons were specially made to prevent damage to the products while being exported. On the average, the local store owners earned GH¢250/$92.6 monthly. While this may not be enough for some of these workers, many of them relied solely on this income for their survival. The activity therefore offered them and even their households a livelihood. Although estimates of the retailers and exporters could not be ascertained, it was expected that their incomes would be higher than that of the local traders as they had wider customer base.

Handicraft Drying

Although the carving activity was dominated by males, the females were not entirely left out. Aside from trading, a number of the older women were involved in the drying of the handicrafts. The process of carving required that the handicrafts be dried to a particular moisture level in order to prevent them from cracking. Drying was necessary before the product finishers could process it further. They often used one or more of solar powered drying equipments, ovens and sometimes sunlight to dry the sculptures. This job was undertaken mostly by petty traders who needed to supplement their income with less demanding jobs. About 5 women undertook this activity in the community. These women received between GH¢20 and GH¢50 ($7.4 and $18.5) per month depending on the method of drying and the volume of work required. Although the amount of income generated through this activity was less given the daily minimum wage of Ghana, the women involved expressed satisfaction with their income since it required less effort.

Forms of Employment Created through the Kente Weaving Industry

The District Assembly moreover estimates that, about 10,000 people are either directly or indirectly involved in the textile industry (Kwabre East District, 2010). Moreover, based on the investigations conducted, it could safely be postulated that the kente weaving industry was the main stay of Adanwomase's economy. The industry employed approximately 1453 workers in the community. However, the number of people employed in the industry at a given time was dependent on the market season (either lean or peak season). Seventy percent of respondents had at least a member of their household whose occupation was either directly or indirectly related to the kente industry. People were involved in the industry often as weavers, input material traders, product finishers and product sellers. The employment avenues created through the kente weaving industry at Adawomase are described below:


Kente Weavers:

The act of weaving was the most common and visible employment opportunity created by the kente weaving industry in the community (see figure 3). The weavers used a combination of either different or same colour of yarns to weave kente using the loom. The Weaving was however dominated by males including both young and adult males from the ages of 14 to 70 years. Some of the weavers were therefore school children who weaved during the weekends, holidays and in the afternoons and early evening during weekdays. The dominance of males was attributed to the traditional history and culture of male dominance in the societies in relation to gender roles as echoed by one of tourism management team members. The females therefore participated more in the marketing and distribution of the clothes.

Unlike the situation at Ahwiaa where the majority (86.7%) of craftsmen learned the wood carving skill through apprenticeship for three years, people at Adanwomase often acquired the kente weaving skill by assisting their skilled relatives and friends.
"I learnt it from my uncle. I just assisted him to work every day after school and during weekends. I took advantage of his break periods to practice” (Tett, 15 year old weaver at Adanwomase)
However there were others (13.3 %) who acquired their skill after serving as apprentice for the same duration as those in Ahwiaa. Weavers who learnt the skill through apprenticeship were often immigrants from the other regions in Ghana especially the Volta region. There were approximately 868 active weavers in the community based on the estimations of the craftsmen, household members as well as the key informants from the community. The majority (62.5%) of the weavers, consisting mostly the young weavers earned an average of GH¢ 227/$841 monthly whereas the remaining 37.5 % consisting of the experienced weavers earned an average of GH¢ 642/$237.8 monthly.


Sellers and Makers of Kente Input Materials/equipments

This form of employment avenue entailed people who sold or fabricated some of the key input materials and tools for the production of kente. Major inputs in the industry include loom, bobbing winder, heddles, shuttle, beater, pulley, breast beam, spool rack, yarns/thread (cotton, nylon, polyester and embroidery) (see also Frimpong & Asinyo, 2013). All these inputs were sold or made by people with special skill set within the community including carpenters—as many of these tools and equipments were made from wood. Others also specialised in making cotton yarns from the scratch for weaving. In all, about 9 people dealt in input materials in the community. The input traders operated in shops which were commonly known as 'thread shops' where all sorts of input materials were sold. The income levels of these workers differed based on the size of their business. In this wise, most (75.0%) of the employees earned an average of GH¢408.3/$151.2. However, those with larger businesses earned as high as GH¢2,000/$740.7 per month. Part of their earnings was however ploughed back into their businesses.


Tour Guides:

The community of Adanwomase in conjunction with the District Assembly and their development partners such as the European Union have established a Tourists’ Centre. Comparatively, the Adanwomase tourist centre was more organised and vibrant than others in the district. With the assistance of American Peace Corps, the Adawomase Tourism Management Team had trained some of the youth on techniques and etiquettes in receiving and hosting tourists. Figure 4 is a picture of foreign visitors at Adanwomase with a tourist guide (second from right).

The Tourist Centre employed 3 permanent workers. There were also about 10 part time tour guides who were called upon during peak periods. The permanent staff earned allowance averaging GH¢80/$29.6 monthly. However due to the flexible nature of the job, these people also worked as weavers and traders in the kente industry which fetched them additional income.

Kente Artefact Makers:

Kente is one of the most prestigious cultural assets in Ghana. Ghanaians, most especially the Akans endeavour to be identified in one way or the other with the cloth especially during special occasions. Some artisans have therefore taken advantage of its prestigious and endearing appeal to design various kinds of artefacts/items with the strips of kente cloth. Such artefacts included products such as slippers, purse, mobile phone covers, ladies and gents bags and men ties and bowties. The kente cloth was thus a major input for the economic activities of other skilled workers in the community. Approximately 8 people including females used strips of kente to manufacture assorted items at Adanwomase. Estimates revealed that, these group of artisans earned from GH¢200 to GH¢400 ($74.1 to $148.1) monthly depending on the state of the market which often depended on foreign visitors. Some of these artisans however earned higher incomes by retailing their products to sellers who have access to bigger markets in Ghana and even abroad.

Traders:

Similar to the traders at Ahwiaa, there were local shop owners who traded only in kente cloth. These shop owners sometimes hired store keepers as well. The kente retailers in the community supplied kente to shops and individual traders in major Ghanaian cities such as Kumasi, Takoradi and Accra. Some of the retailers however were also involved in foreign trade. They dealt with customers abroad as well as with companies and individual exporters of Kente. These retailers and exporters particularly made the industry vibrant as they constituted a greater source of market for the weavers. The retailers and the exporters often went in for contract weaving by taking care of the financial component of the production due to the quantity and variety of designs needed to boost their market chances. It was estimated that there were over 500 of these traders. Some of whom had moved into bigger cities and yet conducted business in the community. From the survey conducted, 60% of the traders earned an average of GH¢342/$126.7 a month as profit whereas the remaining 40% earn as high and GH¢1150/$425.9 monthly from their activities. There were a good number of such traders in the community most of whom especially the retailers, were women.

Product Finishers

The process of making kente into a whole cloth consists of several procedures. Kente is originally weaved into a number of small but lengthy strips of cloths. These strips cannot be worn and therefore have to be processed further. This is where the job of the product finishers becomes relevant. The finishers could be grouped into three main categories namely: designers, seamstresses and, knitters. The designers made various forms of designs—adinkra2 and jolomi (embroidery) designs on the cloth upon request of the weaver or customer. This was an innovation as traditional kente cloths do not have any of such designs. The reason behind this innovation was explained by one of the participants as:
"....this is a new style. These days there are a lot of competition on the market. The idea behind the adinkra and jolomi designs is to attract new market sources by introducing variety of designs to suit the taste of diverse (potential) consumers" (Afia, Kente shop operator)
Some weavers also produced plain kente cloth (kente without any special pattern or designs and often in one colour) to be used by the Adinkra makers at Ntonso; a town in also in the Kwabre East District. This arrangement also created an employment opportunity for skilled workers at Ntonso. Seamstresses in the community were also largely involved in the kente industry. The most common role played by the seamstresses, was combining of the kente strips to form larger clothes that could be sewn into different kinds of attire. Other seamstresses also specialised in embroidery making. The knitters also knitted the clothes in order to keep the shape intact. Excluding the jobs created for the artisans at the Ntonso community, the finishing activities employed about 15 people at Adanwomase. In their estimation, the finishers earned between GH¢ 200/$74.1 and GH¢400/$148.1 monthly from their respective activities.

Spinning and Warping:

Before the yarns or thread could be used for weaving, it had to undergo certain processes such as warping and spinning. The spinning and warping consisted of stretching, straightening, arranging cotton fibres into yarns or thread and folding to make them ready for weaving The cotton fibres were hand spun or machine-spun (see also Frimpong & Asinyo, 2013). The process required ample amount of time and expertise which made it cumbersome and technically excluded some residents from undertaking them. There were therefore people who undertook the warping and spinning for the weavers and some of the input material traders in exchange of a fee. There were about 13 people who were permanently employed in this job category. However, there were many other residents who possessed the skill but were either inactive with their skill or worked privately. The monthly income of the active workers ranged between GH¢90/$33.3 and GH¢150/$55.6 monthly.

Accommodation Operators

Availability of accommodation represents one of the key components of a good tourist destination. Efforts have thus been made to encourage the provision of accommodation facilities especially within communities with viable touristic activities. There were 4 hotels/guest houses at Ahwiaa. These inns employed an average of 6 people each. The staff received monthly salary ranging between GH¢150/$55.6 and GH¢400/$148.1 depending on the nature of work of the person. The majority of the staff in these institutions worked on part time basis. However, there was neither any hotel nor guest house within the Adanwomase community. The tourism management team had therefore liaised with the landlords of some houses with adequate facilities to make provisions for tourists who wished to stay over. The leaders labelled this provision as 'home stay'. These landlords therefore supplemented their incomes through this arrangement.