· By True Moringa
Stories from the Field: Roadshow on the Eastern Corridor
Stories from the Field is a blog series run by our Impact Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Giulia, to give you an in-depth look at the farming communities we serve, the places we visit, and the supply chain that creates True Moringa oil for conscious consumers like you.
Volta region is a crossroad between Ghana and Togo, stretching along the Eastern part of the country. Traders cross these imaginary lines called ‘borders’ every day from dawn to dusk. “I am going to Togo!” might mean "I'm headed to a checkpoint just five minutes walk away." The road between Ho, the regional capital, and Kpasa on the map is a straight line connecting Southern Ghana with the North, also known as Eastern Corridor. On the East it tails the smooth Akwapim hills, while overlooking the Volta lake on the West for most of its length.
George, our Supply Chain Manager, Francis our Outgrower Manager and I set off on a early Monday morning for a field trip to visit moringa farmers in the Kpasa area, 400 km North of Accra in the Volta region. We only stopped a couple of times on the way to eat, as we aimed to reach Kpasa before sunset. About one hour before reaching our destination, we spot an amazing moringa tree heavy with hundreds of pods. Though we're anxious to get to the guest house and prepare for our more formal farm visits the next morning, we can't resist the opportunity to learn more about the family that has cultivated this beautiful tree.
We stop the car immediately and approach the people at the house. It is a lively household: children of all ages run around, some of the older sons are busy on the phone, while the women and the head of the house supervise the activities in the compound. They all turned around with a mix of interest and curiosity at the strangers walking towards them. George and Francis introduce us in the local language, telling them about MoringaConnect and how we are interested in buying seeds from them at a good price.
One of the older ladies comes forward and introduces herself as Abena. She walks straight with pride and talks with authority. She is in her 40s, mother of 7. Her face is still beautiful, despite the hardships, the numerous pregnancies, the hard work in the fields. Her bright voice comes out strong and sweet. She assures us she will harvest all the seeds, even if she had to do it during the night. “I will not go to farm and wait for you right here” she says pointing at the ground with emphasis. She laughs lightly like a child, and everyone with her. We leave with the promise of being back the next day.
14 hours after leaving Accra we finally reach our destination. At the guest house we relax and prepare for the farm visits planned for the next morning. Little did we know that the weather had other plans for us! Torrential rain pours for hours during the night surprising us in the morning. Too late we realize that the main road had been washed away, and there was no way for us to use the smaller trails with the car. Discouraged, we contact the farmers and ask them to reach us with their motorbikes. It was while waiting for them that George has the idea. “Let’s do a roadshow!” he exclaims. “A roadshow?” We echoed. George’s idea is simple: we will tie seeds in batches of 50 and distribute them to farmers along the Eastern Corridor on our way back to Accra. In the trunk of the car were several kilos of hybrid high yield moringa seeds destined to potential new farmers. Excited from the new idea we start looking for small plastic bags, and, with a couple of ladies passing by willing to help, we sit around the car happily exchanging jokes and stories while filling in the bags.
We start the trip South few hours later. First stop: Abena’s house. After one hour drive we spot the big moringa tree in front of the house. Abena is there waiting for us. She tells us how she went early morning in the torrential rain to gather the seeds from the moringa trees at the farm. The children bring forward a half filled 25 kg sack. After measuring it we confirm the weight of 11 kg. Abena smiles brightly. The seeds are worth about 40 dollars, best case scenario of a good month of work.
“What will you use the money for?” I ask her. She tells me that she can now stock soap for the household and buy dry fish for some weeks to feed the children. The atmosphere is light and everyone is cheerful. Even the neighbours have come over and are now rushing to collect the moringa seeds we brought. They will plant them before the rains stop and the dry season kicks in. One of Abena’s sons takes charge of the tree planting process and will become the spokesperson for the community. Happy, we keep smiling as we enter the car and start driving off. Abena is dancing and waves at us from the roadside. We see her becoming smaller and smaller from the rear-view mirror as we proceed on the bumpy road. We are all sharing the same thought: days like this make our work worth it. I stick out of the back seat and ask the guys: “So where do we stop next?”