Cassava Processing Plant in Sierra Leone is under construction

As you know, our club is supporting the Rotary Club of Boise in a major global grant project they have in the Makeni region of Sierra Leone to build a cassava processing plant that can improve nutrition and generate a number of good paying jobs.  (We contributed $2000)  They have made great progress as we can see in the images and report below. 

Ever since the Rotary grant was approved a month ago they've been working feverishly to get the equipment installed and tested.  A few days ago production began with a staff of 50. They come from all 9 villages.  Half are women. Here's how we make gari: 

Tubers are dug by hand

Plant farmers digging tuber by hand

Afterwards, tubers are transported to the factory, where they are peeled, washed and grated.

farmers transporting tubers to the factory  female farmers peeling tubers  factory workers washing and grating the peeled tubers

Grated tubers are then pressed to reduce water content and roasted. Roasting is the last step.
factory workers pressing the water content out of the tubers  Male and female factory workers roasting gari
The roasted gari is set on a tarp to cool down right before packaging it.
Roasted gari cooloing down on a tarp jet before packaging it
And a few notes from around the project:
31 Mar 2016.  Apparently a very secret society exists in this part of SL.  Yesterday someone burned down the structures they use for their initiation activities.  A few minutes ago I was talking to Sonita when she suddenly leapt off the porch where we were talking and raced away to the house next door clutching her baby, who was tied by a wrap on her back, and calling over shoulder “I’m going”.  I stepped off the porch and saw the other two women who had been working on the computers running toward the house too.  The men there continued working showing no concern.  When I asked what had happened they said the society’s devil was around so all the women had to go inside. 
1 Apr 16.  Ten-year-old Shaka told me this morning that he got up at 5:00, went to the bush to gather firewood, heated water, cooked rice for four minutes, and then ate it for breakfast.  After breakfast he went back to the bush to collect firewood for his mother.  Then he came to us for a cup of tea and to tape receipts onto typing paper.
3 Apr 2016.  Abdullai started coming to computer class 3 days ago.  He stopped by this evening and we were chatting.  I knew he lived in a nearby village, Magbak, and asked what made him move there from Makeni 14 miles away.  He said it was the computer class.  He wanted to enroll, even though it’s only 3 hours/day.  A few minutes later his sister, Sonita, joined us and they started talking about the agribusiness company, Addax, which hired hundreds of people - including both of them - but collapsed a few years ago.  They had sent a rep to the villages near here and were taking names because they anticipate re-opening.  Addax pays extremely well by local standards so I assumed they had both gotten on the list.  But they did not because the computer class is their priority.  It’s easy to underestimate the hunger here for education and the responsibility we assume by giving people hope. 
7 Apr 2016.  Sonita introduced me to a young woman saying, “This is my younger sister but she’s older than me.”
7 Apr 2016.  While driving around Makeni with Michael Sesay, a successful businessman, I noticed an NGO vehicle with a name I hadn’t seen and remarked “There are a lot of NGOs”  Michael’s reply: “Yes, but they don’t do any good.”  I’ve encountered this attitude consistently since I first came here in 2007.  It gives one pause.
15 Apr 2016.  A story by Lamin Kanu written for computer class (with minor editing). 
Once upon a time there was a little boy called Waka who lived alone with his Mother.  They were very poor.  One day, Mother asked “Oh, my dear.  What can I do?  We haven’t any money.”  Waka said “Don’t worry Mother.  I will go around the bush and find food.”  So Waka went to the bush.  He met an old woman.  She asked the little boy “What are you looking for?”  He answered the old woman “I am looking for food.”  The old woman felt very sorry for the little boy.  She called the little boy close to her and said “I will give you a pot.  When you get home you just order the pot to cook and the pot will continue to cook until you command it to finish cooking.”  Waka told the old woman “Thank you very much” and said “Bye bye.”


Rotary International is a worldwide organization focused on “service above self.” The West Springfield Rotary club was founded in 1980.  Money raised from this event will be used to fund need-based scholarships for West Springfield High School students to attend Northern Virginia Community College and to support local community and international service projects.

Our Rotary Club is involved in many community and international projects, such as Kristi’s Christmas All Year (helping underprivileged kids in Fairfax County); student mentoring; Bikes for the World; awards for local police and teachers; Shelter Box purchases for emergency relief; road cleanup; blood drives; Special Olympics; Scholarships; Camelot School (helping with the hearing impaired); dictionaries for third graders; and support for teachers and students in Sierra Leone.



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