Sparkling with glass

Kabelo Dipholo
MANNING THE STALL: Lekoko during the BTTE in Kasane

Impact Fund uplifts Maun women while the environment says ‘cheers’

Despite the humble nature of her stall, it was still good enough to catch the eyes of curious tourists and collectors that thronged Kasane’s Cresta Mowana Lodge for the annual Botswana Travel and Tourism Expo (BTTE) recently.

In total, the five-day expo attracted 140 international companies from 28 countries, with a total of 1, 600 participants invading Botswana’s tourism capital for the event.

It meant, Gosaitse Lekoko, an Economic Empowerment Officer, was in the perfect place to find a market for her team’s unique products.

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Lekoko, from the NGO Impact Fund, works with self-employed women in Maun, assisting with quality control, training, pricing and finding a market for their products.

“Our focus is on environment friendly businesses. We use recycled products such as bottles and bottle caps to carve our crafts,” she explained in an interview with Voice Money.

Lekoko and her group of women, which currently numbers seven, run Craftwood, a glass project housed at Sedie Hotel in Maun, where the community drop their empty bottles to be put to good use. The bottles are then separated according to colour and crushed into powder.

“We then take them through a melting process to turn them into molten which we then shape into anything we desire,” she revealed.

From this hot molten, they are able to create beautiful jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, bracelets as well as other ornaments and aesthetic products.

Lekoko said their NGO survives on donations from international donors, which they then use to uplift lives in Maun while impacting positively on the environment.

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“The idea is to help women to feed themselves, at the same time keeping Maun clean. Maun is one of Botswana’s top tourist destinations and has much to offer. We’ve to do all in our power to keep this township clean,” she stressed, adding their products are authentic and created in a sustainable way following fair trade standards.

She told Voice Money her stall received a lot of attention from international guests, and hopes this marks the beginning of great things to come for her team.

“We’ve even attracted some local companies who have shown an interest in working with us. My wish is to work with more people, using our hands to make masterpieces.

I want Batswana products to dominate curio shops, and I want to see such products on international platforms such as Amazon,” she declared passionately.

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Lekoko further revealed the glass project was fully-funded by the US Government through the purchase of an electric mould.

“We use both the electric and the traditional mould, and that is visible in our products. While the electric products are smooth, the traditionally made ones looks a bit rough but more authentic,” she said.

The driven environmentalist also told Voice Money they are currently working on a three-year European Union (EU) funded project called the People’s Path, which aims to create a viable and market-oriented eco-tourism circuit in north-western Botswana, linking a variety of ecotourism and cultural activities for both domestic and international tourism purposes.

The initiative further aims to bridge the gap between the tourism sector and civil society, allowing visitors and tourism companies to give back to the communities and areas they operate in.

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