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Togo: Cassava farmer grows her business despite visual handicap

On a Saturday in July, in the coastal region of Togo, the sun shines in the Vo prefecture. Gathered under a tree, a dozen women, men, and children peel cassava, a tuber that is highly prized in Togo. Cassava flour is important for cooking in Togo, particularly in this coastal region.

Saturday is not a day of rest for Mrs. Djimessa. She is a farmer from Amegran, a town located about 60 kilometres from Lomé, the capital of Togo. Like many other villages in the country, Amegran and the surrounding villages survive on agriculture. Women are a cornerstone of farming activities.

Mrs. Djimessa is a member of an association of people with visual disabilities called “Amenuveve” (Grace in the Ewe language, one of the national languages of Togo). This association has recently been supporting farmers to initiate or develop income-generating activities, with the support of a search organization called INADES-Formation.

Despite her visual impairment, Mrs. Djimessa is an active farmer, producing maize, beans, cassava, and red palm oil. But her blindness has a big impact on her farming activities. She says, “I cannot plant or harvest myself. I have to pay others to do it for me.” Usually, it’s difficult to find agricultural workers in her region. Occasionally, this means that she      loses some of her crop.

Food crops hold no secrets for Mrs. Djimessa. The cassava they are peeling will serve many purposes. She explains, “The waste will be used to feed animals: the sheep. Then we are going to process the rest at the mill. This will be used to make gari (roasted cassava flour) and other consumer products.”

Mrs. Djimessa is a loyal listener to several radio stations in the region, notably Radios la Voix de Vo, Atlantic FM, Citadelle, and Bridge FM, all partner stations of Farm Radio International. She says she follows agricultural radio programs on a regular basis because they give her “useful advice on what seeds to use, weeding methods, and weed control techniques.” Thanks to the advice of the experts who are featured on agricultural radio broadcasts, Mrs. Djimessa has begun to cultivate cassava. She is very satisfied with this decision because she says the cassava grows well, and she has access to markets to sell products made from her produce.

Mrs. Djimessa explains that after peeling the cassava, they take it to the mill. She continues, “Then we prepare it for sale. Our customers come here to buy it. Several produce gari (roasted cassava flour) with purchased cassava.     ”

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Rural Development, cassava is the most widely cultivated root crop in Togo, with 52% of farmers producing it. It is mainly produced in the Maritime, Plateaux, Centrale, and Kara regions.

Cassava has many uses. Beyond human consumption and animal feed, the Ministry of Agriculture says that cassava is widely used for industrial applications such as producing starch, glucose, and alcohol, as well as in the manufacture of biofuels and pesticides.

Mrs. Djimessa says she faces some difficulties with cassava. There are logistical issues related to cassava processing, including the lack of availability of suitable mills. She also wishes for more money and technical advice to boost her production.    

This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.

Photo: A farmers holds their cassava leaves in Makiba village, Tanzania in 2015. Credit: Beth White.