Ele Agbe Company was founded in Ghana in 1996 and is an organisation dedicated to enabling women and youths in rural areas to gain livelihoods through developing and producing quality Ghanaian products for the local and international market. Led by Mrs Comfort Aky Adjahoe-Jennings, their main product lines are bead jewellery, shea butter cosmetics and bolga baskets.
Ghana is the home to the largest bead market in West Africa and is renowned for its bead making historically used for weddings, puberty rites and as decoration for chiefs and queen mothers. Ele Agbe uses recycled glass and other materials to create these beautiful, high-quality beads.
For generations, West Africans have used shea butter to moisturise and protect their skin. Purely natural Ele Agbe cosmetics are not tested on animals. Comfort says: “I saw this as an opportunity to promote and support women who gather the shea nuts and process it into butter. Women in Ghana harvest the shea nut by foraging for fallen fruit from trees, then boiling, drying, grinding and processing it. This provides an important source of income for women and their families, but it is very hard work and many women don’t get a fair price. My work with Shea-gatherers led to a relationship with the West African Trade Hub (an USAID project). They provided me with technical support and a market link with fair trade buyers.”
Bolga baskets are woven by the indigenous Fra-Fra people in a town in North Ghana called Bolgatanga, which literally means soft soil, rocky land. Handicraft activities such as basket weaving supplement family incomes from the subsistence of farming in a region subject to erratic rainfall & harsh weather conditions
The original Bolga was round, no handles & ends of straw were left untrimmed. It was used as a sieve in the brewing of a local alcoholic beverage called pito, still an important drink during funerals, marriage ceremonies, festivals, & other important social gatherings. Only vegetable dyes are used in their colouring and with comfortable leather bound handles, each Bolga bag has its own unique pattern and colour.
Today, Ele Agbe is working with over 300 producers across the country, including women-led Shea processing cooperatives and over 5,000 Shea nut pickers. Ele Agbe's artisans use traditional Ghanaian tools and methods, and the highest quality materials available, including one-of-a-kind beads and unique scents. At Ele Agbe, artisans pass on their skills to the younger generations. The organisation conducts workshops for schools and groups and accept apprentices from the whole of Ghana. “Seeing this all come together, I was so excited like a mother seeing her child in school the first time among other children getting an exposure to social life.” Says Comfort.
Ele Agbe believes in making things happen in spite of the difficult circumstances, encourages to think of solution and success
The organisation also provides children education, interest free loans, counselling services and basic health care provisions.
Oxfam started working with Ele Agbe Company in 2014.