A Grate Start: The Introduction of a Mini Cassava Grater for Women in Ghana
Auntie Hawa. Photo by Benjamin Linder.
Hawa Benjamin lives in Adumkrom, a small village in the Ashanti region of Ghana. In addition to farming, she produces gari, a staple food product made from grated cassava, which is left to ferment for several days and then fried. During the summer of 2011, she became the first woman to purchase a mini cassava grater in our pilot studies.
Currently, most women across Ghana who grate cassava for gari production do so by hand, which is time-consuming, painfully laborious, and makes it difficult to keep the cassava clean. There are industrial-sized graters in market towns, but they are owned by men who charge higher rates and are typically located far from the farm. A mini grater is affordable, gives women control over the process, increases their productivity, and frees up time for other things. When asked how owning the grater would help her, Auntie Hawa said, “If I had more time and money, I’d grow my business and pay for school fees for my kids.”
A team at the 2009 International Development Design Summit (IDDS), held in Kumasi, identified the need for a small-scale grater. After the summit the project entered the product-venture pipeline of the Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE) program, a collaborative offering of Olin College and Babson College in which students co-create new products and social ventures with people in communities around the world to address challenges endemic to poverty.
Auntie Ama, another grater customer, trying out her new machine. Photo by Benjamin Linder.
In collaboration with students and Technology Consultancy Center (TCC) faculty at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), teams of ADE students refined the product and developed a sustainable business model for deploying the grater in Ghana over several semesters. Several women are currently using pilot machines to generate revenue in communities in the Ashanti region, and many generate additional income by renting the machines out to their neighbors.
As word of the machines spreads, the waiting list to purchase mini graters keeps on growing. In January, last semester’s ADE team put the latest model of the machine out in the field and launched a new pilot study to test the potential for scaling up the technology and increasing adoption, training local manufacturing partners at the Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit (ITTU) run by TCC and hiring and training a local distribution manager to oversee the sale and transportation of the new machines. The current ADE team is now raising funds to complete the scale-up pilot study and working with these local partners to address the challenges as they arise with deployed machines.
The Cassava Grater project is made possible by the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), a global network of local innovators using design and low-cost technology to address challenges related to poverty. Led a consortium of universities including Olin College of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Davis, and Colorado State University, IDIN is supported by the US Agency for International Development’s Global Development Lab Higher Education Solutions Network.