Rural families making a living out of gari processing appeal for assistance

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Thu, 11 Feb 2021 Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Correspondence from Eastern Region

Most of the gari produced in Ghana comes from rural communities by small farmer households.

Going through most rural communities in Ghana, the smell of fermenting cassava hovers over the communities, where subsistence and family farmers grow, harvest, peel, wash, grind, press, ferment, sieve, and then fry the plant’s root into a grain-like meal.

Otrokper, a rural community in the Upper Manya Krobo District of the Eastern Region is one of such communities.

The art of making gari, GhanaWeb observed, requires hours of constant tending over smoky, hot metal pans.

Most of the community dwellers including men, women and children, with no alternative jobs, share the burden of the numerous aforementioned steps to process cassava into gari to the final stage of drying, frying, and roasting the fermented pulp.

Nearby, a single mother of three, Comfort Nyengor Kweku undertakes the process all by herself.

She told GhanaWeb that she buys the cassava which is the raw material for the produce from nearby farmers, adding that she’s limited financially in buying the quantity she needs for her business.

“We buy the cassava but sometimes, it’s expensive and we have no money so we purchase it on credit and our debtors chase us for their monies and we save the amount in bits to be able to run our homes because we do not have any other job aside this,” said auntie Nyengor.

As she explained, the tedious job involves cooking the cassava pulp over low heat, to dispel water from the fermented cassava “dough”, then finishes over high heat and the dough, which clumps and burns easily, has to be continuously stirred with what is known locally as “chimi,” which is a rugged instrument cut from a gourd.

She says, they sometimes have to send the gari to the district capital, Aasesewa to sell. Other times too, buyers buy right from her ‘processing center’.

Though she relies primarily on the proceeds from her business to cater for herself and her children, she, however, lament that the proceeds is invariably too little to run the family.

“It [money] is woefully inadequate, we only manage it,” said Comfort Nyengor with a nearby processor echoing her position.

The unanimous cry of Nyengor and other processors is for government to come on board and support them with capital and modern equipment for their business.

“We want government to come and support us by giving us money to expand our businesses,” she pleaded.

Close to her, Apokyi Abraham, a farmer and his wife, Mary Awo Abraham assisted by their 16-year-old daughter employed the traditional process of preparing the cassava into gari in an aluminum dish set on top of a mud oven fueled by a wood fire.

The three, sitting linearly before the mud ovens continuously stir the clumps with what is known locally as ‘chimi.’

But with four children to cater for, the couple say government must come to their aid to expand their business with financial assistance and equipment.

“My wife and I prepare gari but we need financial assistance to buy the cassava because our money is inadequate,” said Apokyi.

According to the couple, the children, who were in school at the time of GhanaWeb’s visit, assist them during weekends and on weekends.

Because the earning potential of gari producers is mostly restricted by their own cooking capacity, the producers, therefore, require assistance to acquire modern processing machines to expand their businesses to help them earn more by overcoming their capacity limitations.

Apokyi and Mary explained that the proceeds from the little profit they make from selling the product at Asesewa and Sekesua go into catering for their children’s educational needs, food, medical bills, transportation needs and other expenses which is always inadequate to meet all these demands.

As for madam Awo, the heat and a good shed are her concerns.

“The condition under which we embark on our business is very bad so we need something like a factory to shed us from the sun,” she said.

Source: www.ghanaweb.com