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Ghanaian alum helps develop African microenterprises

Ziblim Abukari

Ziblim Abukari hopes to combat illiteracy in rural Africa. Photo: Michael Richmond

In northern Ghanaian villages, women tend bees and make ceramic pots, generating products for the microbusinesses they established with the help of DU’s Ziblim Abukari.

Abukari, MSW ’06, the first in his family to have any formal education, saw firsthand the effect he could have on “the most vulnerable people in society” and wanted to do more. So, he decided to pursue a graduate degree at DU.

Before coming to DU, Abukari worked with the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Opportunities Industrialization Centers International (OICI). During a five-year stint with OICI starting in 2000, Abukari trained 21 groups in 11 communities.

Abukari traveled to small, rural, subsistence-farming communities in his native northern Ghana to provide training in sanitation and farm management, but his favorite work was helping groups of low-income women to develop microenterprises.

The nonprofit had identified traditional tasks that women were doing on a small scale that could be expanded into profit-making enterprises.

“We tried to harness what the women already knew,” Abukari says.

The women were making pottery, but it was thick and heavy and dried using a crude method of firing, Abukari says. So, OICI provided kilns and hand-powered potter’s wheels, and Abukari taught them to produce lighter pots that were more attractive to buyers.

However, some of Abukari’s most groundbreaking training was in beekeeping.

“Traditionally, beekeeping was male-dominated so it was strange idea to the women,” he says.

He taught the Ghanaian women to produce and sell large quantities of high-quality honey, and by the time he left OICI, the demand for the microenterprises’ honey outpaced production.

When Abukari returns to Ghana after graduation, he hopes to create an organization to combat illiteracy in rural African communities.

“He will make a huge impact in his country upon his return,” says Christian Molidor, associate dean of the Graduate School of Social Work.

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