Cassava, manioc, and yuca are different names for the same starchy tuber that grows in different parts of the world. The French call it “manioc” (in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire) and the English call it “cassava” (Liberia).
But no matter what it is called, I love the way it is prepared in a very special community called Ira, Cote d’Ivoire. We had such a treat this past week, following our conference, to drive about three hours west of Abidjan to an area very rich in rubber trees, palm oil plantations, and cassava farms. We drove deep into a community where hundreds of women work twelve hours a day, seven hours a week (that’s right – you heard me…no day off…ever) to process cassava.
Most women spend their days doing what the woman in the video below is doing – peeling cassava. I had to peel potatoes once a day growing up – for about fifteen minutes. I can’t imagine doing this twelve hours a day, every day. From there, the cassava is soaked, washed, then ground up and dried. Some of it goes into what is called “attieke” which is almost like couscous, and other is made into a flour for “gari” which is like a cream of wheat.
The good news is that they have more demand than they can currently meet, both locally and for nearby countries. The bad news is that they have only one machine that grinds up the cassava, and therefore that machine is being worked 24 hours, seven days a week. We have been asked to help with a loan for some additional machines to provide for some more efficiency (and maybe a day off for the women!).
But it is fascinating to drive into this community, off the main road, where they have developed their own economy with churches, schools, shops, to support the work of processing cassava. These women are super hard working and I admire them!
Thirty members of this community were sent to Abidjan to attend our workshop, including some of the owners of these businesses and three pastors of three local churches. All of them are saying “Yes” and “Amen” to the message that work can be done as an act of worship, and that we are to be the church every day of the week in all that we do. They said they will start teaching that this Sunday! We are excited to partner with them, to take them through the business training, and then see how these businesses can increase their productivity to help even more people flourish!
Please enjoy the pictures and the very brief video of the women peeling cassava below, although this media can’t capture the amazing work!