Rosaline Okemini, 35, is a widow and a mother of 8 children (5 boys and 3 girls).She is an indigene of Okpuitumo community in Ebonyi.
She explained “In 2008, ActionAid provided a milling machine for my community, Okpuitumo but for about 7 years, the machine which is used for both grinding and milling of rice was not in full use. The problem was that after milling the rice, if it is left unused and uncooked for too long, then it gets bad. Okpuitumo community has never had a market and we always have to walk over 10km to the nearest market and for a few, travel over 20km to the state capital to sell our milled product. So it was nearly impossible to transport milled rice for sale in the market considering the distance and the weight of the rice after milling. The best way was to take the rice to the market in bigger communities, mill the rice there and get a buyer to buy immediately as buyer are always found at milling centres. As a result of these, we only used the machine to mill rice for our personal consumption and not for commercial purposes. Thus the machine was underutilized.
When my husband died in early 2014, I couldn’t afford all my children’s school needs and fees so two of them had to drop out of school to help me on the farm and sales at the market; theproblem however has always been the long walk to the market carrying a big sack of rice of my head with my children also carrying bowls of rice; they get tired quickly and always complain about the distance. I feel very bad watching them walk so long and tired because they want to assist me at the market. They were also very sad and angry when they see their friends going to school but they can’t go. Things changed in late 2015 when ActionAid supported us to construct wooden stalls around the milling machine building to serve as a market. Through words of mouth, communities around us started getting to know we had stalls for market and a milling machine. The milling machine and stalls were helping us attract attention to Okpuitumo community as people started coming to our community to mill their rice and to buy and sell.
Before, rice milling processing was done manually using our hands whichis time consuming and tiring. I am happy to tell you that by late 2015, Okpuitumo community market had become very full; our milling machine is now fully functional and generating money for the community. The money realised is being kept by the women association and 50% of it will be use in support of the needs of the school and the health centre.
I also decided to stop selling rice sincemajority of people selling in the market sell food items, so I now sell used clothes which we call ‘Okrika’ in our local dialect. Using my savings from the sale of rice, I go to town to buy these used clothes otherwise called second hand clothes which I now sell in the market. There are now a lot of people buying selling every day.
Thanks to ActionAid for the rice milling machine and the market stalls, it has attracted people to Okpuitumo and made us a commercial community too. I am now a business woman and children are back to school. My family is happy.”
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