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A prayer for Aworowa gari

Tue, 20 Mar 2012 Source: Mensah, Solomon

By Solomon Mensah

“Please, senior, I’ve came so told me what you wanted to told me so I can gone.” And the senior said, “Gone? Common English you can’t spoke!”

When Senior Silas shared that joke, the Commonwealth Room of Tano House of the then Sunyani Secondary School (SUSEC) vibrated with laughter. But, like an Egyptian mummy, I sat on the metallic bed unmoved. Not even the first comedians of Keysoap Concert Party could have tickled me.

I had earlier commented and lamented over the four pieces of sliced yam served pair plate at the dining hall. I could not believe after the noise the siren made, we were only to fill our stomachs with hunger-teasing-butterflies. Or, you think the four pieces of sliced yam were enough? This and my-never-slept-on-mattress that went missing on the very day I set foot in the school sent my heart beat from the frying pan into the fire. So, I considered laughing over my problems as madness. But, Senior Silas, a little bit higher than a Lilliputian, would not understand. For my punishment, I was to feed him for two good weeks from my chop box. Insanity!

As ignorant as the killers of Jesus were, I thought serving my bully with gari would stop him from pestering me. Rather, he abruptly said goodbye to the dining hall and went about spreading the gospel of “Aworowa gari” to his cohorts. This gave birth to the popularity of Techiman students on campus. Why? They were the suppliers. Simple. Whereas a child will ask for an aeroplane from his father, our mates’ wish for the Techiman students on mid-term break was nothing but an “olonka” of the Aworowa gari.

The Aworowa cassava processing factory sits on a lonely hill on the right side of the Techiman-Wenchi road, sticking its neck into the skies. As if by design, one can spell or pronounce the town’s name from left to right and from right to left. Madam Owusu Takyiwaa, one of the caretakers at the factory, took me down history lane that barely about 25 years ago, the factory was set up by a philanthropist, Madam Debrah, a native of Aworowa. Madam Debrah, moved by an urge to promote women empowerment, set up the Aworowa cassava processing factory. Today, the factory offers employment to hundreds of women from Techiman to Wenchi. Madam Takyiwaa was quick to add that the factory did not discriminate against men. “The men help in the milling and drying of the cassava dough as well as sealing of the gari in sachets and in bags.”

Like akpeteshie, the factory’s students’ companion has never been advertised, but sells like hot cake nationwide and beyond our walls. “Secondary schools in and around Brong Ahafo buy it to feed their students.” Madam Takyiwaa told me. As students develop taste for the gari even after school, they press hard on market women to still supply them of their one time companion. Adjei Daniel is an old friend from our days at SUSEC and is now studying medicine in China. I could not go to Aworowa without informing him. In our good old days, he called the Aworowa gari “sweet-after-meals.” So I thought it wise tickling my friend on his onetime best “snack.” It was therefore not surprising my friend requesting for a sachet of his stuff to fight the Chinese weather. I never knew gari could fight cold weather. It is said, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Indeed, Ghana’s neighbours also deserve this yummy delicacy. Madam Takyiwaa said traders from Niger and Burkina Faso have a taste for Aworowa gari. “They have never regretted trading with us” she added.

On my question as to why Aworowa gari is so special, Madam Takyiwaa revealed to me the factory’s secrets. “We do not use unwholesome cassavas for our production,” she said proudly. “At many gari processing factories,” she observed, “unwholesome cassavas are used for its production. This in no doubt gives the gari no good taste.”

But aside the praises heaped on Aworowa gari, the Aworowa Cassava Processing Factory stands shaking like konkonte being pulled on a truck. Half of its structures are now white elephants. The factory’s sealing machine is currently down. The ease with which consumers carried well- packaged and sealed gari is now a thing of the past. This has not only crippled a section of the local market but the international market as well. On the other hand, insufficient machines for drying the cassava dough, and some shoddy tanks built by a contractor add to the factory’s predicaments. For the insufficient drying machines, it has created a ritual where workers verbally fight one another over who got to the location first. Tanks for re-drying the cassava dough after it has gone through the drying machine has become the home of spirogyras. These tanks, I was told, commissioned by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) have served no purpose since it lack proper drainage systems.

Upon entering the Aworowa town, one is greeted by the pungent smell of the factory’s sewage which joins a river. It must be stated here that the factory is a source of income to many. Therefore halting production will be disastrous. Workers who will lose their jobs will just add up to the unemployment population.

Before I could pull my voice recorder into my pocket, Madam Takyiwaa made a humble appeal: “Tell Ghanaians, philanthropists and stakeholders to say a prayer for Aworowa gari.” Hey, do not mistake her “prayer” for she meant your “economic prayer”- Ketewa biara nsua.

The writer is a student-journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

Email: nehusthan4@yahoo.com

Columnist: Mensah, Solomon