The women of the community at Jaima Bongor, Sierra Leone, previously grew, harvested and sold cassava leaves for a small profit -until they spoke to a woman from a local cassava factory.
The factory is run by a strong and knowledgeable woman named Hawa, who had herself been helped by with World Vision several years ago to set up a cassava production factory. It was Hawa who recommended that the community speak to World Vision. Fast-forward time and World Vision provided the community with a Savings Box & cassava processing equipment.
I headed out with Kate from World Vision UK to follow the cassava journey, from farm to factory. During the rainy season, the women get together weekly to weed their plot, between 7am and 9am, whilst it's not too hot. Here they grow cassava, groundnut, okra and plantain.
We joined in with this morning weeding, which was great hands-on experience. Many of the women had babies on their backs, all blessed with the spirit of working together for the communal good. Singing and talking, the sense of community was strong.
We witnessed the cutting and rooting up of cassava, which we would take back to the village to witness the next step in the processing journey.
Ordinarily, this would involve walking, carrying the cassava root, leaves and wood gathered from the farm, but on this occasion they grabbed a lift with us, singing with elation from the back of the pickup.
On our return to the village, preparation of the cassava began. Men and women gathered round, removing the skin from the root using various blades, from small knifes to machetes.
One peeled and washed the root is taken to the processing machine, donated by World Vision, to shred the root.
The pulp is squeezed using a purpose built machine, again donated by World Vision, to remove all the moisture. Nothing is wasted, the water that drains off is high in starch and so, kept to sell on. This partially processed wet cassava cake is then packed into 50 kilo sacks and taken to the nearby Muamia Women's Cooperative Cassava Factory where it's sold.
Next stop is nearby Muamia Women's Cooperative Cassava Factory where we meet Hawa. An inspiring woman, respected by all, Hawa now not only purchases cassava from many of the farmers and womens' groups in the area but also funds a local school.
Seeing the journey of the cassava was great, but more so learning how this community, with some help from World Vision, helps one another to better their village and children's lives.