Popular among the Yoruba and indeed, millions of other Nigerians and West Africans, is Garri, a processed food made from cassava. It is one food that is rich in nutrients such as carbohydrate, fibre, vitamin A and others.
Some people find it more enjoyable when soaked in cold water and taken with sugar, milk or groundnuts. The crispy, slightly sour taste makes it a delightful experience.
Although Garri is produced in most parts of the South-West, many believe that the one made in the Ijebu part of Ogun State, known as Garri Ijebu is the best. But even in the state, there is another type of garri believed by some to be of a superior quality and taste. It is called Garri Kila.
Garri Kila is produced by some communities in Ilugun Local Council Development Area in Odeda Local Government area of Ogun State.
Kila is a market located in Ilugun Local Council Development Area in Odeda Local Government in Ogun State. The market is the second largest market after Ifo market. All the communities in Ilugun come to Kila Market to sell their garri. Since the garri sold in the market are almost of same quality, the cassava flakes put up for sale in the market is generally referred to as Garri Kila. However, in a contest for the community in Ilugun with the finest of Garri Kila, the people of Kugba-Ajagbe community beat their chest. The community believes their brand of garri is the best of Garri Kila.
Garri Kila is a pure white dry granule manually produced. It has a dry texture from deep-frying and has a very sour yet sweet and crispy taste. The impact of the texture of the garri is mostly felt in the mouth. More so, the reporter learnt that the garri is void of impurities and does not get spoilt easily because of the deep fry. In the food market, Garri Kila is said to be more expensive compared to Garri Ijebu.
Oja Kila, as the market is popularly known, is not an everyday food market. The women come from their various communities to trade their garri every five market days. Garri Kila gets patronage in the market from people who export it abroad.
In the words of Prince Adeshina Animasaun, first son of Balee of Kugba-Ajagbe, Chief Rafiu Animasaun: “Garri Kila can be white or butter coloured, depending on the flavour of the cassava. When soaked in water for drinking, it swells more because it is dry, crispier, has no sand and has a unique sour taste. And when turned into Eba -solid cassava meal- it does not get spoilt easily. It can stay for more than three days and not gather moth. This is because we squeeze out the water and allow it to dry very well. We do not use the sun to dry the cassava paste before frying. The use of the sun for drying though increases the volume of the garri, but when made into Eba, it often gets spoilt by the next day.
“A bowl of Garri Kila in the market is sold for between N2000 and N2500 while other brands of garri might be sold for N1, 500 and N1, 000. The manual and unique way of processing Garri Kila makes it very tedious. But if we can get help with modern garri processor, it will help. Garri processing is a good business.
“Garri Ijebu is popular among Lagosians than among Ogun people because Ijebu people take their products directly to Lagos. Garri Ijebu often have impurities, is lighter in texture and in sour taste compared to Garri Kila,” he stated.
Interestingly, the word ‘garri’ came from the Urhobo language in Edo State. Different ethnic groups in Nigeria have their varieties of garri. This cassava meal food that can be taken as cereal or eaten in solid form with any kind of soup is a quick meal accessible to both the rich or poor. With regards to colour, there is the white and yellow garri. And the processing of the garri is mainly the profession of the women in those areas.
In Ilugun LCDA, the situation is no different. However, the older women regard the job of processing garri a calling. But for the younger women, it is a circumstantial job – an avenue to earn money and make ends meet.
Prince Adeshina noted that, like the men, the rural women also play significant roles in food production. They are involved in farming, processing and sales of food crops in the market.
“These women are hardworking. Aside assisting their families, they are supporting food production in the state. In the market, our community women have distinguished themselves selling Garri Kila of superior quality and taste. This is why the women from Kugba-Ajagbe sell out their garri faster than others,” he explained.
United Nation Women Watch, a United Nations advocacy group for women, says in many countries, women supply most of the labour needed to produce food crops and often control the use and sale of food produce grown on plots they manage.
“Women play key roles in maintaining all four pillars of food security: as food producers and agricultural entrepreneurs, ‘gatekeepers’ who dedicate their own time, income and decision-making to maintain food and nutritional security to their households and communities; and managers of the stability of food suppliers in times of economic hardship.”
The women and garri processing
In a chat with the women, they revealed that garri processing is a strenuous job. According to them, it takes time, energy and patience to fry garri of good quality.
For more than 40 years, Mrs Aduke Adeoye has been into the processing of Garri Kila. Aduke is one of the oldest women in Kugba-Ajagbe, the wife of the first Baale of Kugba, Chief Inusa Adeoye. Her children are in civil service jobs but she maintained that garri processing is the only profession she has known and will know.
Motunraya Olayiwola, an indigene of the community, however, didn’t think much of the job. The young lady in her late 20s said processing of that brand of garri requires hard work.
“If I get another job, I will leave the job. If someone is not very strong, the person cannot do this job. It is hard work,” she stressed.
Twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth John, whose parents hail from Benue State but was born in the community, said this was the profession she saw her mother doing. Adding that in the absence of no other job, having dropped out of school early, she joined her mother in the processing of garri.
Ramont Ogunshola too isn’t a fan of the profession. “It is not my wish to be processing garri for this long. The absence of no other opportunity is why I am doing this to get by,” said the 26-year-old lady.
Ogunshola, who stopped her education at secondary school due to financial constraints, would have loved to be a nurse. She said she would soon leave the garri processing business and go into the business of baby clothes and accessories.
For 36-year-old Grace Idehi, she stopped her primary education at age three. She said she was introduced to petty trading early. Upon marrying into the community in 1985, she had to join the other women in the processing of garri.
“The men are mostly farmers. We, women, cannot be idle. We have to find a way to support our husbands in catering for the home. We farm and also buy harvested cassava from the men.
“It was difficult for me when I first joined the women. I was not used to this kind of job. Garri processing is very tasking. We spend the whole day in the farm to get the cassava. There is the stress of getting firewood, carrying the cassava home and getting it ready for frying. Frying of the garri is another huge work.
“If the cassava is many and there are good roads, we use cars to transport the cassava. But if there are no roads, we use our heads to carry the load,” she explained.
Mode of processing
According to Idehi, processing the garri begins after bringing the cassava from the farm. The first thing they do is to peel the cassava that day or the next. The peeled cassava is washed, ground and put inside a big basket to ferment. After two days, the cassava paste is put in a sack and the pressure of a jack is used to extract the water from it. Frying, she said, starts after another two days. But it is sieved first before frying and after frying, it is sieved again. Then it is ready to go to the market.
Health benefits of garri
Some people are afraid to take garri, insisting that too much intake of garri causes eyes problem. Research, however, says garri devoid of cyanide does not cause eye problem. Cyanides are found in poorly processed garri. But well processed garri is good for the eyes. Such garri aids digestion, improves the immune system, prevents cancer and gives energy to the body.
Mrs Bola Ogunmefun, a consumer and nurse told the reporter that she enjoyed taking garri. She explained that she got to know about Garri Kila seven years ago when she was transferred to Kugba-Ajagbe Community Health Centre. Praising the women for the effort they exert in producing Garri Kila, she added that she likes the garri because it is sweet in the mouth and is produced in a hygienic way.