Gari

Making the most of opportunity – Tolulope’s brave choice in building her own cassava processing/packaging business venture

 

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Photo credit: Tolulope Aina

Aina Tolulope an undergraduate of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Ibadan and a native of Ogun State is the CEO of Tolulope foods processing and packaging company- which is currently into the processing and packaging of Gari and has a brand known as MyGari aside packaging food items as souvenier for events. She developed the interest in cassava cultivation and processing during the one-year practical year training program while she was in 400 Level.

Despite several challenges, Tolulope chose not to back down!  She believes agriculture has revolutionized in this jet age and with the current state of the country, Nigerians especially the youths, should wake up and be that change they want to see instead of waiting for miracles to happen from the government.

INTRODUCTION

My name is Aina Tolulope, a student of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Ibadan.  I am the CEO of Tolulope foods processing and packaging company, a brand that is currently into the processing and packaging of Gari called MyGari. I was born on the 12th of September!

When and where was the start of your journey into agribusiness?

My interest in agribusiness started during the practical year training program at the University of Ibadan for 400 level students. During this period, I developed the interest in cassava cultivation and processing and I decided from that time to pursue cassava cultivation, processing and packaging as a business venture.

Tolulope's Packaged Garri as souvenir for an event

What is your view about agribusiness?

Agribusiness to me differs from the conventional mentality people especially the youths have about the business enterprise. Agriculture generally has upgraded from the use of crude implements to mechanized farming, to agro- processing which helps to improve the value of agricultural products in the local and foreign market. The packaging also helps in adding value to the product. Oh well in this jet age, so packaging is key.

What part of your agribusiness do you find most satisfying and what part do you find most challenging?

The most challenging part has to do with expansion and capital needed for the business- since agribusiness is generally capital and labour intensive. Against all odds what’s satisfying about agribusiness is identifying problems that spring up from time to time, putting in place combating strategies and actually seeing positive results in respect to that.

What challenges did you face while starting up and what decisions and choices did you make to manage the challenges?

Hmmm… That’s a whole lot you know? but let me share a few of them. Initially, financing the business was the first issue, how to convince was next – how do I convince the identified sources to invest in the business? There was a dramatic incident which could have totally discouraged me from starting but I thank God I didn’t let that pose as a limitation, it was when a supposed expertise in the field who I expected to be a mentor was just after how much he could swindle out of me. Well, lessons were learnt and business had to go on. That’s what challenges are called right? (Laughs)….

Photo credit: Tolulope Aina

I chose not to back down, though challenges kept on popping up. The more they kept popping up, the more combating strategies were put in place. But then the beauty of it all is after much effort in trying to make things work out, you begin to yield positive results and those that looked down on you begin to appreciate you, people begin to acknowledge you as a source of motivation to others, a problem solver and a motivation to both young and old, these to me are priceless.

It’s not just about starting a business and keeping it moving, it is how much lives one can touch on the way up the ladder. Above all, focus, perseverance, hard work (with smart work as an active ingredient) and most importantly God’s grace is what has kept this business going.

How have the choices and decisions you made helped in the success of your business?

Choices like how to process the best quality of ‘Gari’, how to make it available for an affordable price, and what packaging material should be used, the form of packaging, size of the packaging, the target market among others. The decisions made were made based on the most cost-effective options that would benefit both the target market and the business. As an Agricultural Economist, I am concerned about minimizing cost, providing the product at an affordable price and still make the desired profit.

Some of Tolulope's packaged food products as souveniers

Do you attend seminars, mentoring programs for improvement in your business? How do you keep yourself informed for improvement in your business and what steps have you taken to improve?

Lol, why not? If I don’t, how then will I keep myself motivated and develop in the field? One of the essential qualities of an agripreneur is good and upgraded knowledge of the business. To me, knowledge is key!

What’s your view on youth involvement in agro-processing, and packaging?

It’s key, in short, this is the future of this nation’s agribusiness. The bulk of food being consumed in Nigeria come from rural sources, others are from import sources with very little from private owned commercial farms. These rural farmers employ the use of crude implements. This is the 21st century, technology has gone way beyond that, where are the youth, the leaders of tomorrow and what are they doing about this? Even rural youth are coming to the city to ride okada.

Tolulope's Packaged Garri Product

The period of glut is accompanied with abundance of some resources and when these products are off season the nation experiences severe scarcity. What is wrong with our storage facilities? What is happening to mechanized farming? Asides from what we hear in the news about government empowering the youths in Agriculture? How many deserving youths have been empowered? How can a nation like ours that is blessed with a favorable climate for the cultivation of various agricultural produce still be unable to boast of being food secure? What is the problem? Is the government doing less or are the citizens ignoring agriculture? The reality is this, the supply of the labour force is higher that the demand for it. Year in year out we have thousands of youths ploughed into this sphere called labour force yet everyone prays and hopes for a good job, please where are these jobs? Youths let’s sit back and think about how we can help reduce these problems rather than add to it. How can we help ourselves to help others?

I apologize if I have somewhat digressed but then, we have to tell ourselves this truth, with the current state of our economy right now, everyone has to wake up and think of how to help revive our nation, the government cannot do it all, we cannot die of starvation by waiting for miracle to happen from the government, let us wake up and be that change we want to see.

What ideas would you encourage the government to implement to ensure youths involvement in Agribusiness?

Government, please help the youths, create avenues for seminars and training for the youths in Agriculture, there is need to reorientate the youths that there is more to agriculture than the use of hoe and cutlass, in short aside from all these ambiguous empowerment programs with little resultant effect on the economy when evaluated,  Identify interested youth, train them, divide them into teams of professionals in various aspects of agriculture, empower them by giving them substantial amount of hectares to cultivate, provide them with required resources, prompt mentoring and put up a structure that can accommodate sales of their product. When the government has agricultural products to sell, sporadic fluctuation of food items by suppliers will reduce. It is a broader concept which I cannot elaborately explain in this interview, but then trust me- there is a lot to be done especially on the part of the government.

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What is your advice to agropreneurs that have the desire go into agribusiness agro-processing and packaging?

In business, if one looks at all the likely problems to be encountered, no one would really start anything. Like I actually tell people from experience, there will never be a perfect time to take a bold step towards achieving one’s goals. You have to take the time (which is now) and make it perfect. Against all odds, you just have to take the  risk, calculated risk and not just risks without a well thought out plans, do not let anyone or anything weigh you down or deter you from achieving your dreams.

Identify persons that keep you motivated and strive towards being a source of motivation to others, be ye never particular about the profit to be made from a business but be more concerned about how many lives you can impact, a problem solver you can be not just for yourself but for the benefit of the entire human race. But then, you can never be too certain about some outcome, therefore, you should never rule out the God factor, do your best and let him crown your effort.

“Garrison” can make u rich

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Garrison, what is this? I am sure this is the questions on your mind as you read the theme of this blogpost. Well by “Garrison” I refer to Gari made from Cassava and it can indeed make you rich.

Cassava is one of the most popular and widely consumed food crops in Africa. Because it is such an important food in the region and an extremely versatile crop, it is commonly referred to as cornerstone of food security in Africa. The competing needs for cassava cut across both human and animal consumption. It is fast becoming a popular raw material in industrial production and is now a preferred material for making biofuels.
Cassava is highly adaptable to our tropical climate and soils, and remains very popular for producing excellent harvests even when other crops fail. Cassava is also the most widely available source of carbohydrates and dietary energy in Africa. Processed forms of cassava, especially Gari, fufu and tapioca, are very common throughout West Africa.

Garri is hugely popular in the region as it has traditionally remained cheaper than other carbohydrate sources, especially rice and maize. This has aptly earned it the nickname “the common man’s food”
Garri is the most widely traded processed cassava product. It is estimated that more than 75 percent of the cassava produced in Africa is processed into garri. As a result, garri prices are often a reliable indication of the demand and supply of cassava.

Market Opportunities for Cassava and Gari production in Africa
Even for small scale entrepreneurs who are unable to participate in the international cassava export market, feeding the local African population with this most basic food stuff remains an interesting and highly lucrative prospect. What is more interesting is that as humans, animals, industries and biofuels compete for the valuable cassava crop, the prevailing local market prices will continue to explode!

The annual consumption of gari in West Africa is valued at several million dollars (annually) and is expected to grow with the population explosion in the region. For as long as a large proportion of the population in the region remains predominantly poor, gari will continue to be the preferred food product for many years to come. Gari has several applications in African cuisine and is prepared in very many ways across cultures and countries. It’s really well enjoyed and consumed by both rich and poor.

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Cassava – Different garri African foods

Garri can be consumed in a variety of ways. The gallery shows different forms of cooked and raw garri creatively expressed for every belly’s pleasure.
Of all the forms of cassava that can generate income, garri is the cheapest and easiest way for entrepreneurs to enter and exploit the processed cassava market. Garri production is a low-cost and largely traditional process and can be done on a small scale. To produce garri, fresh cassava tubers are washed, peeled, mashed, fermented and fried to produce the coarse-grained product. A kilogram of Garri fetches up to five times the price of an equal weight of fresh cassava. By adding value to the cassava crop and processing it into a ready-to-eat staple like garri, entrepreneurs can earn a very healthy profit on the open retail market.
In addition to the large local market for garri, there is a huge opportunity, with a much higher profit potential, in exporting this product to the increasing number of Africans living abroad in the US and Europe. However, there are strict guidelines concerning food exported to these countries.

Success tips for aspiring Garri and Cassava producers…

For any entrepreneur to favourably exploit the opportunities in this market, he/she may have to invest in cultivating the cassava crop on a farm. If you are sure of a steady and very cheap supply of the fresh cassava tubers, you are likely to succeed without your own cassava farm. However, due to the high perishability of fresh cassava tubers, it may be very challenging to get the tubers to a processing centre or facility fast enough before spoilage starts.

It is also important to note that processed cassava (especially garri) is available in several different varieties. Be sure that your finished garri product appeals to the taste and tradition of your target market. Garri in Ghana may look and taste different from Nigerian or Togo garri. Even within our different countries, there are still many different types, shades and flavours of garri.

Additives such as palm oil and soya bean are sometimes used to enrich the look, feel, taste and protein content of the product. Understanding the ‘Garri’ needs of your market (quality, packaging etc) is very important so you don’t end up with the right product in the wrong market.

Garri that is not properly processed (especially by manual methods), may not last long in storage due to its high moisture (water) content. You may choose to sell the finished product as soon as it is bagged and ready. On the contrary, if moisture content in the finished product can be kept very low (using machine production), garri is known to last up to a year in storage and will command premium prices in the market during non-harvest periods.

Some things you should consider before you start…

A key success factor in this business is the nearness of a garri processing location to the source of your cassava tubers. Remember, if the tubers are not processed within 48 to 72 hours, cassava may start to spoil. If your source is far from your processing area, you may have to decide on a very reliable means of transportation to get your tubers to site as soon as possible.

Second, garri production can be a very manual process but the required labour is largely available and cheap. Using labour with previous experience of gari production from the interior villages (where the practice is prevalent) will be very helpful. However, this traditional manual production of garri is considered to be crude, uneconomic and unhygienic. Investment in cassava processing machinery may help to save a lot of costs and improve the quality of your garri. Several machines including Cassava graters, Fermentation racks, Hydraulic presses, Automatic Garri Fryers and Vibrating Sieves are available and can make the production process hygienic and economical.
Process flow chart for garri
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It is commonly consumed either by being soaked in cold water with sugar, coconut, roasted groundnuts, dry fish, or boiled cowpea as complements or as a paste made with hot water and eaten with vegetable sauce. When properly stored, it has a shelf-life of six months or more.

Principle of preservation and processing of cassava
Cassava is fermented to remove cyanide and produce the desirable flavors. It is then roasted to destroy enzymes and microorganisms, to drive off cyanide gas, and to dry the product. Preservation is achieved by heating during roasting. A low moisture content inhibits recontamination by bacteria. Packaging is needed, especially in areas of high humidity, to retain the low moisture content.

Raw material
Fresh cassava should be free from microbial or insect damage and without serious bruising or cuts. It should be processed within two days of harvest to prevent deterioration and loss of quality in gari.

Hygiene
Fresh cassava is a moist, low-acid food that is susceptible to bacterial and fungal growth. Hygienic practices, especially in the early stages of processing, should therefore ensure minimal contamination. All waste materials from the process should be removed from the site as they are produced to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

Process control
Washing should be carried out thoroughly to avoid contamination of the final product with peel, sand, and so on.
Fermentation must be properly controlled, as too short a period will result in incomplete detoxification and a bland product. Too long a period will give the product a strong sour taste. Both over- and underfermentation also badly affect the texture of the final gari.
If too much liquid is pressed from the grated cassava, the gelatinization of starch during subsequent roasting is affected and the product is whiter.
If sufficient liquid is not removed, however, the formation of granules during roasting is affected and the dough is more likely to form into lumps. The ideal moisture content is 47-50 %, and this is assessed visually by experienced garri producers.
Sieving is important to obtain a high-quality product, free of fibrous contaminants and with similar-sized granules. The granules must be roasted to about 80 ºC/175 ºF to achieve partial gelatinization of the starch.If lower temperatures are used, the product simply dries and produces a dry white powder. Too high a temperature will cause charring of the product and make it stick to the roasting pan.

Packaging and storage
The product is hygroscopic (it absorbs moisture from the air) and should be packed in airtight and moisture-proof bags, especially in areas of high humidity, to prevent mold growth.
Other forms of cassava utilization include
1. Fufu flour
2. High quality cassava flour
3. Tapioca
4. Lafun
5. Kpokpogari
6. Glucose syrup
7. Glue
8. Ethanol
9. Composite bread
10. Livestock feed industry
11. Livestock feed products
12. Starch in paper, etc.
13. Starch in food
14. Starch production