It takes almost one hour from the center of Bobo Dioulasso, the second largest city in Burkina Faso, to get to the plastic bags recycling center managed by a cooperative known as “Le Gafreh”. “Gafreh” stands for Women Action Group for the Economic Recovery of the Houet, Houet being the province where Bobo Dioulasso is located. This cooperative was created in 1995. So I went there to meet Christiane Lamizana, the Group’s president, and all those who work daily in the recycling and weaving center. The cooperative is employing around eighty women coming from the Bobo Dioulasso area. These women from very modest backgrounds are thus making a decent salary with medical coverage included for their daily work.
The Bobo Dioulasso area is particularly polluted by plastic wastes dumped carelessly by people everywhere. The collection of these plastic bags provides work to very poor women or young beggars and at the same time contributes to clean the urban environment. Once the bags are collected, women of the cooperative must then proceed with their cleaning.
They have then to take care of spinning plastic thin strips on spools which will be used in the knitting and weaving, and finally, they’re proceeding to the sewing and tailoring parts. All these steps to design beautiful bags, pouches, boxes, crocheted dolls, all original and high quality products. But what has interested me most were these beautiful striped weavings, black as tar, flexible and tough as leather which women weave on narrow looms. Composed of black cotton yarn on the warp and plastic threads on the weft, these fabrics with bright stripes are revisiting the traditional “faso dan fani” cloth. Striped cotton loincloths specific to the Burkina Faso cultural identity, “faso dan fani” are usually worn for important moments and celebrations.