Two-time lucky Asikasu palm oil producers: Municipal Assembly fixes broken-down extraction machine
Asikasu, a farming community near Suhyen in the New Juaben North Municipality in the Eastern Region, is noted for the cultivation of various crops, particularly oil palm for the production of palm oil.
Although many of the farmers cultivate other crops such as cocoa, maize, cassava plantain and vegetables, palm oil production is the main farming activity in the community and its nearby villages.
Since selling the raw products, palm nuts, does not fetch so much money, the farmers, especially the women, process the palm nuts by boiling, putting them into the mortar and pounding, after which water is added and the chaff removed.
Thereafter, the water containing the oil is boiled for some time. The oil is then separated from the water.
Since the process is laborious it has been difficult for the processors who are not able to process much of the palm nuts.
Another challenge is that because the processors do not have the traditional tools to work with, they are compelled to transport the palm nuts to other nearby towns such as Suhyen, Jumapo and Oyoko, among others, which is making them spend huge sums of money.
It was, therefore, a delight when a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Peace and Love Association, donated a modern palm oil extraction machine to the Asikasu community to help the processors produce a large quantity of the product every day.
The machine, which enabled the processors to at least double production, was used for only four years before it broke down, which worsened the plight of the processors.
The New Juaben North Municipal Assembly, however, came to the rescue of the farmers by repairing the machine, to keep production on track so that the processors would be able to make money out of the palm oil business and feed their families.
At a short ceremony to officially hand over the repaired machine to the community last month, the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for the area, Comfort Asante, said since the cost of repairing the machine, which was GH¢13,000, was huge, that would be too much for the processors; hence, the assembly’s decision to take up that responsibility.
She said the assembly mobilised funds to put the machine in order and was grateful that the community would continue to use it to improve their earnings.
Oil palm seedlings
The MCE said the availability of the machine had become necessary because her outfit had adopted the planting of oil palm seedlings as part of the government's Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD).
Because of that, Ms Asante told the gathering that a total of 15,000 oil palm seedlings had been distributed to farmers free of charge.
That initiative, she indicated, had witnessed most of the palm seedlings planted bearing fruits.
She was hopeful that the repaired machine would boost the palm oil extraction business in the community.
That, the MCE further explained, would create more jobs and enhance the livelihoods of the people in the community.
She expressed appreciation to the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, Nana Adjei Boateng, chiefs and opinion leaders who supported in diverse ways to make the whole process a reality.
Ms Asante urged the community to take proper care of the machine by upholding a maintenance culture, to ensure that it lasted long to serve its purpose in the interest of the community.
The Municipal Director of Agriculture, Emmanuel Amenu, said apart from oil palm extraction, the people were also encouraged to go into the cultivation of other crops, as well as the rearing of animals such as goats, sheep and pigs, adding that his outfit distributed 60 pigs to the farmers to rear two years ago.
He promised to further assist the farmers and urged them to contact his office in a time of need.
All such measures, Mr Amenu indicated, would make the planting for Food and Jobs a reality.
He also stated that the availability of the processing machine would encourage more farmers to go into oil palm cultivation.
According to him, the farmers would be able to add value to the fresh palm nuts, by producing palm oil which would get ready market.
Most of the farmers were happy about the machine being brought since they would no longer go through the traditional processing of palm oil.
Repairing the machine also put an end to the high cost of transporting the palm nuts to nearby towns for processing into palm oil.
A woman farmer and processor, Grace Tekpetey, who had been in the oil palm processing business for five years, heaved a sigh of relief that at long last she would be using a machine instead of manpower.
She said the main source of income for the inhabitants was palm nuts processing and that with the machine they would be able to process more and subsequently generate more income for their livelihoods.
A nine-member committee headed by the Assemblyman for the community, Benjamin Larbo Narh, was later inaugurated to take care of the machine.
He pointed out that the palm oil business was lucrative and that the machine would enable the processors to make a lot of profit since they would no longer travel far distances to process their palm nuts.
The assemblyman said palm oil production played an important role in the local economy of the country and enhanced rural livelihoods.
Mr Narh commended the New Juaben North Municipal Assembly for assisting the community to repair their broken-down palm oil extraction machine to enable them to improve their livelihoods.