In Hopes of Constructing a Cassava Plant in Sierra Leone

With your help this summer, Bread and Water for Africa® hopes to raise enough funds to construct a plant in Sierra Leone to process cassava into gari.

So exactly what is cassava?

While most Americans may not have heard of cassava, an edible starchy tuberous root, it is more commonly called “yuca” in Spanish and in the United States.

Cassava is the third largest source of food carbohydrates in tropical countries after rice and maize, and is a major food staple in the developing world, providing a basic diet for more than a half a billion people, including millions in Sierra Leone.

In addition, it is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing in marginal soils. It was introduced to Africa by Portuguese traders from Brazil in the 16th century and is now an important staple food, replacing native African crops, and is sometimes described as “the bread of the tropics.”

And what is gari?

Gari is cassava root, dried and ground into flour and, according to our partner in Sierra Leone, Rev. Francis Mambu, executive director of Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO), is a popular West African food constituting a daily meal to some 150 million people worldwide.

Rev. Mambu tells us gari is not only rich in starch, but also very high in proteins and some essential vitamins and is very high in fiber which makes it very filling while preventing bowel disease.

One could say it’s the “superfood” of Sierra Leone.

But why would FHDO want to operate a cassava processing plant?

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The answer is simple, to provide income to women farmers – many who have taken orphans whose parents died in the tragic Ebola outbreak into their homes – as well as generating income for FHDO itself to operate its clinics and schools.

Already, FHDO has planted more than 10 acres of cassava to be distributed to women in the Yainkassa Village in the Bombali District who will plant them on their own land and tend to them until they mature and are ready to be harvested in six months. After the initial harvest, the women farmers will be able to continue harvesting the cassava at three-month intervals.

Once the processing plant is in operation, FHDO will be able to purchase all the cassava the women can grow, guaranteeing them a reliable place to sell what they produce at fair prices.

But then what will FHDO do with all the gari it produces?

And here’s the beauty of this whole plan – FHDO will sell the gari back to the farmers who grew it at wholesale prices so they can go out and sell in their local community markets, in effect selling the same product twice and making two profits.

Why is this processing plant so necessary?

“The people of Sierra Leone were seriously affected by the Ebola virus disease outbreak,” says Rev. Mambu. “Especially the women and children.”

Rev. Mambu told us that women from 11 villages – totaling about 500 farmers – have been targeted to participate in the project.

That amounts to 500 households with thousands of children, many of whom are Ebola orphans who would have nowhere to go except for the caring and compassionate women who have taken them in and given them a loving home.

These women need a steady income to provide for their own children, as well as the ones they have taken in. They need to be able to put food on the table for them – every day – pay their school fees and purchase school uniforms, to be able to pay the medical bills when they get sick.

And the cassava process plant will enable them to do just that.