Feaso Yam Business

Sat, 21 Jan 2012 Source: Mensah, Solomon

By Solomon Mensah

At the World Championships in 2009, Mokgadi Caster Semenya thrilled sports fans with her speed. As if a duiker being chased by a hunter, she did the 800m and 1500m races with the times of 1:56.72 and 4:08.01 respectively. Impressive! But, I can bet with my balls, Semenya can never compete in any race with the 35-55year women-yam-sellers at Feaso.

As passengers advance towards these sellers’ ware displayed in mounds, the women run, struggle and compete for customers. When I got down of my Phonex bicycle, I was blind-folded by clouds of dust cast by their feet and my ear drum set at risk of splitting noises all in an attempt of persuading me to buy from them. These old but active “sprinters” coiled into their shells upon hearing “I’m not buying anything.” However, they regained composure after disclosing my identity and telling them I wanted to know how business thrived.

Mariama Larbi, the queen mother of the market spoke for the sellers. She said they sold all kinds of yam: pona, afasee, bayepa and the likes, depending on the season. On shaky wooden pavilions, the yams are packed, with the prices ranging from Ghc5 to Ghc20. Mariama (as she insisted to be called) is over fifty years and has been in the yam business for twenty years. “Don’t you think I should be given a medal for long service?” she joked. Mariama told me the market opens as early as the red swollen sun creeps over the eastern wall and closes when GTV’s prime news ends. The Feaso yam market sits on the right hand of the Techiman-Nkoranza road. Under a skeletal wooden structure, the yam sellers sit waiting for customers. Mariama Larbi told me that at first, they had to rush to their customers in parked cars. “Now they rather come to us,” she said with an unflinching look at the moving cars. The sudden trend of change in marketing is not that they have become pompous due to their flourishing business but of a disaster that befell them. “Two years ago, one of us was knocked down by a car.” Mariama recounted their never-to-be-forgotten pain to me. With the tip of her brown faded gown, she soberly wiped a snake of tears on her chick. “Insha Allah! She did not die. She has now recovered.” Nevertheless, she gave thanks to authorities of Feaso for stopping them from crossing the road to reach customers.

Not only is the Feaso yam business patronized by commuters but retailers from Sunyani, Kumasi, Accra and Ghana as a whole. As Mariama seemed to be recovering from her short flow of tears as she recounted the accident, her raspy voice informed her choice of a temporary spokesperson, Fati.

Fati is thirty-six years old and has been in the business for seven years now. As a customer approached, Fati’s left hand supported a baby girl that clung to her left breast with her (Fati’s) right hand showing the differences in the prices of the yam. From her exchange with the customer, their market noted all over the country as a repository of quality yams. Fati told me aside local market; they do packaging of the yam for people traveling abroad. At the mentioning of abroad, a radiance of smile sat at the corner of her mouth. But my good friend said to me she fears for the market’s future. Her fear solely lies in the absence of stores to keep their goods. The fear is neither of the annual Ghc 200 they pay for keeping their goods in rented rooms nor the hunger-stricken mice that burrow into the yams. It is because the rented rooms are being taken from them for residential accommodation.

Probably at the look of my Phonex bicycle, Fati did not ask for any parcel as her Christmas gift but, a call on the government and other stakeholders to help build the market. She prays a year by this time when the nation’s “political-azonto” will have been all over, the Feaso yam market will no longer be under shaky wooden structure. “We won’t be carrying our goods to and fro like ants on a hunger alleviation project!” Fati sounded confidently as Mariama whispered “say it all.”

Whether it is the NDC’s Sunyani congress or whatever mission that sends you to the Brong Ahafo Region, do well to visit the Feaso yam market for your tubers of yam.

The writer is a student-journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. Email: nehusthan4@yahoo.com

Columnist: Mensah, Solomon