Women in vocational sector: Shai Osudoku cassava processing

Cassava Processor A cassava processor at Odumase near Dododwa in the Shai Osudoku

Tue, 14 May 2019 Source: Michael Oberteye

One indispensable area contributing immensely to reducing the high rate of unemployment in Ghana is Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Cassava Processing cannot be excluded.

Scores of women are eking out living processing cassava into dough, locally known as Agbelima, in most parts of the country. This Agbelima is one major component in the preparation of Banku and Tilapia even at the Five Star Hotels. In addition, it is used in the preparation of other local foods like Atseke, Gari, Yakayake, Tapioka, Konkonte, Agbeli kaklo, Casava Flour (for bread and cakes), Paper Glue, etc.

Some of these women are found along the Dodowa-Agomeda stretch, in a cluster of communities, in the Shai Osudoku district in the Greater Accra Region. Here, the women engage in this very demanding enterprise. The young and old peel, grate and process the cassava into dough which they sell in markets nearby.

Madam Afi, a cassava processor at Odumase near Dododwa in the Shai Osudoku district has been processing cassava into dough for the past few years. She has a few employees to assist her discharge her duties.

Undoubtedly, the business serves as a reliable source of income for her and others. “This business sustains us and our families. I am a farmer and I process the cassava into cassava dough. I have a few employees who help me daily in my business,” Madam Afi said.

Cassava processing include peeling, grating or milling, fermentation, pressing and sieving. For the women, the cassava processing keeps body and soul together.

Industrious Auntie Victoria has been in the corn dough business for the past twenty years, employing others in the process. She tells Media for TVET that from a humble beginning with three people, she currently has twenty young women under her.

Long duration of natural fermentation, inadequate processing equipment and storage facilities, high transportation and processing cost, limited access to funding, unstable agricultural policies, ineffective linkages in the value chain and delayed technical support of extension services, among others are some of the challenges confronting women in this business.

Madam Victoria says though the occupation has served as the main source of income for her family, she regrets that the needed help from the Shai Osudoku Department of Agric is not forthcoming. “We need some assistance, including a corn mill, sheds and other facilities,” she appeals.

Another constraint is manual peeling which is time-consuming and tedious. Seventy-year-old Aya Ayele is one of the several employees contracted to peel the cassava for a fee. She charges GHC 3.00 for every pan of cassava she peels. Madam Ayele says she is compelled to do this because she has nobody to cater for her.

Abla is another cassava processor in the district. Customers for her business are mainly from Tema. She describes her business as unreliable due to the losses.

The low productivity of women is due to low input technologies, limited resources, and government support. Research technologies for small scale cassava processing have not adequately addressed the problems of women in cassava processing especially in the design of female-friendly tools.

Many of the cassava processing equipment produced by researchers are yet to be adopted by the rural processors.

Madam Senanu is the Women In Agric Development (WIAD) Director for the Shai Osudoku district and she empathizes with the women, confirming that most of the challenges of women in cassava processing include logistical, facilities and poor working environment.

For the women, a shed under which to ply their business, a cassava mill to grate their cassava, etc will go a long way in alleviating the challenges associated with their work. These sentiments were voiced by all the women sampled.

Abla’s concerns cannot be anything different. Just as the other affected women, she is equally calling for assistance to address logistical challenges.

Empowering women cassava processors effectively, therefore, requires gender-responsive research approach, educating the women through sensitization and training and government intervention by mainstreaming gender into agricultural policies to tackle issues relating to cassava processing in the cassava value chain.

Key areas in educating the women processors include training on standards for cassava products and improved food safety practices, sensitization on industrial uses of cassava in order to encourage them to diversify their products to increase income generation and use of cassava waste in generating biogas to save processing cost.

Osei Kuffour of Media for TVET (Media4TVET) is calling on the powers that be to come to the rescue of cassava processors in order to reduce the crisis level of unemployment in the country. He is further urging the media to sensitize the public, especially the youth and women, in this enterprise to make it much more productive.

Columnist: Michael Oberteye