Breaking Ground and Building Up at the Fair Trade Zone

Pictured: Clockwise: Melanie Popowich, team reviewing initial ideas for Fair Trade Zone, a view of the first building, and the staff from the Akuse office visit the new building.

We are exceptionally thrilled to share with our fantastic community that we FINALLY have a building on our land! Before we give you a little tour of the brand-new building, we’d like to remind you of the journey that brought us here. The Fair Trade Zone started out as the dream of Melanie Popowich. She saw it as a way for Global Mamas to increase productivity while staying true to our values and vision as a fair trade organization. Unfortunately, we lost Melanie in January of 2013 and her passing shook us to our core. In her memory, we found the strength to move forward and pave a way to the brighter future she envisioned for Global Mamas. 

In 2013, an international team of architecture students led by Architecture Sans Frontières (Architecture Without Borders) United Kingdom came to Ghana and visited our production sites, observing the flow of work, soliciting feedback from seamstresses and batikers, and researching materials that could be used to build the eco-conscious and self-sustaining production center. 

1 FTZ Design Process 2011 2018 2
Top: Renderings of Sewing and Batiking Zone created by Sophie Morley from Architecture Sans Frontières – UK (ASF-UK) and team . Bottom: Architecture Rendering of Phased Approach created by Juergen Strohmayer

Using this participatory approach between the architects and the Mamas, the design was conceptualized to be built as dynamic and responsive structures that change over time. The Fair Trade Zone will be a pioneer of sustainable architecture, design, and manufacturing in Ghana, and possibly the sub-region.

However, purchasing land has been challenging, with several “false starts”. We originally started looking for land near our current office in Ashaiman, but after several years of searching to no avail, the Mamas encouraged us to turn our attention towards Krobo.

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In 2018 we finally purchased land from the Aklomuase family. We were thrilled at the realization that finally, we could start building our dream.

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Finally in 2021, we broke ground on our land.

Building progress

Unlike a common architectural design that envisions a completed, static building, the Fair Trade Zone allows for construction to be done in phases and evolve with the changing needs of the employees and organization as a whole. This approach is more adaptive and has allowed us to start small with funds as we have them.

The building is made using eco-friendly materials like compressed earth bricks and bamboo. It will also serve as a prototype structure that will allow us to learn how all the eco-friendly building materials work together, informing future construction. Though we still have a lot of work to do to complete phase 1 of the construction, we are unbelievably excited to see our vision begin to come to life.

MainBuilding Shot

After years of back and forth with the Mamas and our amazing team of architects and engineers, we have finally completed the very first building of the FTZ. The main purpose of this building is to make enough space to move the Krobo Mamas closer to our Akuse production facility. This is the first stage of centralizing production in this region.

With this wonderful progress, we wanted to take a moment to share with our community and thank everyone that has contributed to this dream along the way. It’s because of our generous supporters that we can move forward and create this space for women to explore, develop, and strengthen their capabilities. The support of our community and your belief in the impact and reach of our work keeps us moving, one sustainable step at a time.

If you would like to continue supporting our progress with phase one, our next goal is to outfit the first building with all of the resources needed for a comfortable work environment to transition the Mamas into the space. That includes tables, chairs, sewing machines, bathrooms, fans, lighting, etc. We are currently fundraising for $5,000 toward these expenses. In total, we need around $86,000 to complete this building, but this $5,000 will keep us moving forward.

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Our dream of the completed Fair Trade Zone captured by Artist Kelsey Tyler 

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