Shao community is located at an elevation of 269 meters above sea level and its population amounts to 736,113. Situated in Moro, Kwara, Nigeria, its geographical coordinates are 8° 35′ 0″ North, 4° 34′ 0″ East. It is 14 KM to Ilorin and 15 KM to Malete town which is home to Kwara State University.
The people of Shao are warm, lovely and friendly. They have a rich cultural heritage. The indigenes are moderately educated. There about 10 Secondary and 15 Primary schools in the community. The community has cassava as their main food and economic resource. Most of the older indigenes are farmers and grow food crops as their major source of livelihood. They plant and harvest cassava, which is a staple food in abundance that hundreds of people come from far and near, from nearby communities and from other states to purchase the harvested cassava in bulk. Information received has it that the buyers export the cassava overseas and sometimes process and sell to supermarkets and stores.Shao town is also widely famed and known for their popular Awon-ga Festival (AKA Mass wedding festival) which is a rich source of tourism and draws people from far and near yearly
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When I first came to Shao as a corps member, I discovered 200 widows and orphans languishing in hunger and poverty. I wondered why this will be so in the midst of plenty, which is cassava. This project sought to address the issue of poverty (which stems from unemployment). They are between the ages of 35-65 years. 150 of them are Christians and 50 of them are Muslims. I wondered why the community remained poor in the midst of plenty (Cassava which is a staple food). The goal of my organization is to harness the economic resource and potential of communities and empower them using same. I was of the belief that if the women are empowered to process the cassava which they harvest in abundance and sell in bulk, it will go a long way to improve their standard of living by creating employment for them, give them a source of income and a means of livelihood and ultimately boost the economic development of the town especially also as the project will foster intra state and community trade.
I decided to construct a cassava processing factory fully equipped with necessary machines to enable the women to process the cassava and sell the product (Garri) in bulk to nearby markets. I spoke to the Oba and his council of elders and they were interested in the project due to its economic significance and donated a large plot of land for the project.
Business Structure of Project
We set up a business association for the widows and jointly selected a President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary to run the factory to ensure its sustainability. The Factory was structured it in this way, The women will harvest or buy cassava from the farm, process it (grating, press dry), and frying dried cassava into garri, then bag this garri and sell in bulk to the traders and over 10 markets within and around the community. They are to use all funds generated to maintain the factory, pay stipends and salary to widows who assist in peeling cassava and the factory daily operator, sell garri to the women at discounted rates, give out small loans to women, and during festive periods like Christmas, Awon-ga, Easter, Salah purchase food stuffs and share to all the widows.
The funds was successfully raised for the construction and the factory was completed and officially handed over to the widows and the community head in January 2014.
We recently conducted a monitoring and evaluation of the factory and found that the factory has been successfully operational for 3 and half years and has provided the women with revenue and a means of income.
The project successfully improved the lives of 200 widows and over 100 orphans who were languishing in hunger and poverty. It enabled the women become engaged economically and then were able to cater to their children’s basic needs. The women made money through the following ways; Grated cassava and process into garri, package and sell in bulk, Grated cassava and processed into garri for customers and charge a fee, rent out their frying equipment for a fee, sealed bags of garri for others and charge a fee. The revenue generated from the factory was used to provide small loans for younger women to start small businesses and they purchased food items during celebration periods like the Christmas, Easter and Awon-ga festival. The money generated was also used to pay the school fees of 5 orphans. As observed from our evaluation, the above kept the women happy which we noticed affected the economic wellbeing of entire community. This initiative greatly fostered peace and security and created harmony amongst the residents. This was so because both the Christians and Muslims were united with one voice for a common goal. The project increased the self-confidence and self-worth of the widows who were seen as evil. The initiative inspired the community members to see them as normal human beings. The factory led to general economic prosperity and community wellbeing.
This project which targeted 200 women who are widows in Shao community, indirectly impacted entire community members of over 100, 000 giving them access to freshly made, sand free and affordable garri. It provided employment for elderly women from the ages of 50 – 65 who help in peeling the raw cassava from the farm and get paid on a daily basis and the younger widows (35-45) who assist in running the factory are paid a stipend.
We are now working on expanding the factory, installing modernized machinery and equipment to enable the women produce larger quantities of garri to meet up the daily demands of nearby markets as the demands have recently overwhelmed the present mini factory. With the new machinery and expansion, they will now be able to work faster and deliver garri without sand particles. They will bag the garri in a nylon which will make it possible for them to deliver to supermarkets. The new factory will have the capacity to produce more than 25 bags (about 5 tonnes) of processed garri in a day. We have been able to connect the National Youth Service Corps and they have agreed to purchase garri from the women to serve the over 3000 corp members who come to the National Camp on a quarterly structure. They usually will need over 50 bags in 3 weeks. They agreed to patronize them because the project was firstly initiated by myself as a corps member. The Kwara state government through the Ministry of youth has also agreed that the state government will be happy to patronize the women when they need to make charity donations. This will greatly generate income for the widows to use for other programs and consequently boost the economic development of the community.
The socio-economic activities of Shao such as farming, religious activities, education, presence of university students and corps members, football competitions, Awon-ga festival paints the picture of a fairly economically balanced society and hugely supported the cassava processing factory by providing patronage daily and majorly on the market days from the afro-mentioned and the neighboring communities. This greatly ensured its sustainability as there was monthly revenue pouring in enabling the women to run the place.
Pictures Of Project
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