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Monday, January 30, 2023

COVID-19: Cassava Flakes Processors Careless About Safety Protocols

The women in Bawjiase community in the Central region of Ghana definitely have a skill in cassava processing. From processing into flakes (gari), and dough, watching them display their skills makes one wonder if their art was bequeathed them by their ancestors.

The vast cassava plantations by community dwellers in early 2000, their processing craft, and contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Products triggered an august visit from the President, John Agyekum Kuffour.

The visit was climaxed with the sod-cutting of the Ayensu Starch Processing factory to boost production and ease the excessive labour during production. Months on and the structure began experiencing screeching sounds from processing machines.

It also saw an increase in cassava cultivation as residents clamour to meet demand. Women competed squarely with their men counterparts over production and income generation from producing raw materials for both gari and starch.

On a cold morning visit to the community located about thirty kilometers away from Kasoa, heaps of cassava stirred me in the eyes. Others had just made their journey from the farms to the makeshift processing centres ready to be put through cleansing process, some were half way through the process of becoming gari while others were on fire undergoing vigorous frying.

Ebenezer Aidoo, Assemblyman for Bawjiase Central and my tour guide for the day did not let me miss any sight of the various processes. It was an all-women affair from washing of the cassava, peeling, grinding, packaging in sacks, and frying.

A woman manually squeezing water from bags of milled cassava. This is one of the processes in cassava flakes production. Photo by Collins Kwabena Nsiah|zamireports|2021

Mma Nnyaa used to be among the women but has since 2020 not processed a single grain after she exhausted her capital and profit on the onset of the Corona virus.

“I spent all I had during the onset of the pandemic when and have not been able to start the business fully, I hope to return very soon”, she explained.

Cecilia Ottey has seven workers. She tells me her business was only affected but for a short period. She has since the end of the partial lockdown resumed full productions.

“When the pandemic came, we had some gari processed down already, so I and my workers stopped working for a while because movement was restricted in the community. We only started when the ban on movement was lifted but it is not moving again as before”, Madame Cecilia Ottey said.

Globally, businesses were dealt a heavy blow when Corona Virus broke out late 2019. Business either folded up or migrated unto innovative marketing strategies including digital sales as in-person activities were banned with most countries imposing lockdowns, restrictions in movement, and curfews to curb the spread of the virus.

But on the onset, gari processors in the Bawjiasi community cashed in with hikes in prices. The announcement of lockdown of three regions by the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in March 2020 was the “cocoa season” for the gari traders as demand surged.

The price of a bowl took a double jump from Ghc 8 to Ghc 15 but the processors and traders now are complaining about the dwindled sales.

Prices have since either slightly moved upwards or taken a dip but has never returned to Ghc 15 since March 2020.

Covid-19 Protocols. 

The Bawjiase community did not record any cases though its neighbour Kasoa was among the epicentres in Ghana. New of the outbreak of the virus was either heard on radio or television, residents told www.zamireports.com

By Sunday, 28th February 2021, President Akufo-Addo had held 24th briefings on measures by government to control the spread of Corona virus. In each briefing, the president translated portions of his address in some Ghanaian languages notably; Twi and Ga in a bid to ensure the average citizens who do not have basic knowledge in English will understand and appreciate the gravity of the pandemic.

It would be expected that residents of Bawjiasi would observe the safety protocols, at least wear face mask but that was not the case.

“God is in the local communities, God is not in the city, by His Grace, we are protected. When you go to the city you will see people cover their nose, mouth, hand, and neck, but we will not do that here, you can see my children” (pointing to her workers whom are all working without face masks), an unbothered Cecilia Ottey tells ZAMI Reports’ Collins Kwabena Nsiah.

Workers of Cecelia Ottey frying cassava flakes during Collins’ visit. ZAMIReports|2021.


The President on March 1, received his jab on live television together with his spouse in a bid to communicate the satey of the vaccines. Before taking his jab, Nana Akufo-Addo had assured Ghanaians in a televised address of safety and debunking conspiracies including the “vaccines altering DNA”.

“Fellow Ghanaians, I know there are still some who continue to express doubts about the vaccine, others have expressed reservations about its efficacy, with some taking sides with conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine has been created to wipe out the African race. This is far from the truth,” Akufo-Addo said.

But residents are not giving up on conspiracies they have heard since the first case was recorded in Wuhan, China.

Among the doubting thomases is the assemblyman of the Bawjiase Central Electoral area Ebenezer Aidoo. He still harbours some doubts about the vaccines.

“Some people said that, the injection was dangerous to our health because we heard of blood clotting in the body system due to the vaccine, while others said that the vaccine had spiritual implications of anti-Christ”.

Fact checked Reports.

Most misconceptions have been debunked by Factcheck Ghana. Among them is alleged infertility caused by the vaccines. The online news portal quotes the WHO Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Dr. Katherine O’Brien as saying, “the vaccines we give cannot cause infertility.”

Another report cited by www.zamireports.com assures citizens in Ghana of the safety of the vaccines and urging all to take the jabs. Other extensive report includes the USA Centre for Disease Control’s report on the essence of vaccination.

“The US Center for Disease Control also explained that some antibodies remain ‘on patrol’ in our bloodstream for long.  The need for a vaccine is further boosted so that if our bodies ever encounter the real germ in the future, the immune system can quickly trigger the memory cells and produce antibodies to defeat it; thus, vaccines were needed as a public health tool.”

The country embarked on the journey to recovery when the first batch of 600,000 COVAX vaccines of AstraZeneca/Oxford arrived in the country from India late February. Front line health workers and others at high risk were prioritized for the vaccine.

As of 6th May 2021, there were 93,011 confirmed cases in Ghana. 90,697 out of the number had been discharged with seven (7) persons in critical state. The country had also recorded 783 deaths and with 1,531 active cases according to the Ghana Health Service corona virus dashboard.

The country aims to vaccinate about 66% of the citizens by the end of the year representing 20 million people. Some 700,000 have received the vaccines so far.

The report is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting Covid-19 project. 













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