FRANCISTOWN: Fifty-five-year-old Mareledi Madome has been earning a living by weaving products using the Mokolwane (palm) tree for 34 years.
In fact, like most women faced with poverty and high unemployment in recent years, she ventured into this line of business to better her life.
Madome, a native of Motlhabaneng village in Bobirwa district told Business Monitor she inherited the sewing skill from her mother, Ontifile Keletso who used to sew for leisure. “I do not have qualifications in what I am doing, but I am just using skills that I have acquired from my mother over the years when growing up to keep my business running,” Madome said.
She stated that in 1982 she started sewing basketry and as time went on she introduced chairs, mats (floor mat, table mat, wall mat) hats, trays and other ornamental items using Mokolwane tree.
She revealed that in 1987 the then agricultural demonstrator in their village established her talent and took her to be part of the Lobatse trade fair to showcase her items. “I was encouraged to consider doing this for business and the words motivated me over the years,” Madome said.
Madome proudly said for years she has been able to put food on the table for her family without turning to anyone for assistance through the selling of her Mokolwane products. The mother of six (four sons and two daughters) said she wishes the Department of Gender Affairs could fund her so that she could upgrade
She said she collects Mokolwane branches along Motloutse River in her home village then designs artistically to come up with items that really please the eye.
She said she then cuts the branches into thin strips, immerse them in water so that they easily bend and twist to the desired shape. Madome added that the branches are combined with few lashes and grass, combined with a string to come up with an end product.
Madome, who is also a farmer, said she is currently going around the country to advertise and sell her products.
“I usually travel to Palapye, Francistown and neighbouring Bobirwa villages to sell my products,” Madome said.
She stated to have been motivated by a Setswana maxim, ‘Mosadi tshwene o jewa mabogo’ meaning a woman’s worth is determined by work done with her bare hands. She said that the only raw material that she buys is the steel that she uses to design chairs with. She said that her business is profitable and she occasionally gets orders when there are weddings or cultural events. Her customers include individuals and the business community, especially those who own craft shops, lodges and guesthouses.