going where it matters:
Traditional blacksmiths have a long history in Ghana. Apart from general metal products, many blacksmiths from slums or rural areas also produce guns in their backyards to make a living. These guns harm the communities they live in and spread into conflict zones right at Ghana’s doorstep. Our programme provides these undoubtedly skilled blacksmiths with better, alternative income opportunities and gets them and their children out of this dangerous environment.
Why is Ghana so crucial within the region?
Ghana is rightly hailed as a positive example in West Africa. Contrary to many of its neighbours, the country has been a stable democracy for decades. However, this also comes with challenges. Perhaps precisely because of its stability, Ghana is the largest producer of small arms in West Africa. The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre estimates that gunsmiths in Ghana have the capacity to produce up to 200,000 weapons per year. This is done in an unsafe way and most of their clients are not legitimate buyers.
Blacksmiths operate in backyards or villages in certain parts of the country. For many, making guns is a means of putting food on the table for their families. And who can blame them? Our programme seeks to connect them to formal employment opportunities that get them and their families out of harms ways and let them use their skills for a better purpose. Read more below.
What do we do on the ground?
We connect gunsmiths in slums and rural parts of Ghana to new, better and especially legal job opportunities with companies where they can apply their incredible skills to the better. These are decent jobs in areas like welding, pipe making, metal cutting, etc.
Most of Ghana’s gunsmiths do not have a formal degree. To offer them a new livelihood, some companies require formal education before hiring them. We bridge that gap by working together with educational authorities to provide courses that get them ready for the job market.
The last thing we want is that children and young adults follow the path of their parents and are pulled into a dangerous & illegal profession. It’s vital to provide educational opportunities to the next generation. We work with schools and educational institutions.
We always put the communities themselves in the lead
Most of the blacksmiths live in tightly knit communities and it is extremely difficult -especially for outsiders- to find out who they are. Therefore, we build trust with the local communities. We do not believe that we can go into a community, fix their problems and leave again. Even with good intentions, fixing the problems of others can create dependency. Our approach is to empower the communities themselves! We work together with community leaders, women’s groups and others to find a way to improve the situation together, with the communities in the lead, not us.