Ghanaian Micro Business Helps Farmers & Villagers

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Village members convert bark from weed tree into jute mats tha prevent soil erosion. Photo: Meyers

Praise be to an entrepreneurial nursery manager who knows how to manage weeds that can destroy food-producing land.

In Ghana, Newmont Mining nursery manager Muhammad Bin Abubakar has not only developed a successful micro business for 800 people in the village of Tetyre, he is helping stunt the rapid outgrowth of the unwanted York tree.

A few tears ago, when he oversaw part of the development of Ghana’s Brong Ahafo Mine, he learned from itinerant farmers about and invasive weed tree called the York (Broussonetia papyrifera) that was overtaking arable land and turning it into a wasteland, growing 25-meter trees tat left a labyrinth of seeds and shoots. According to Bin, one farmer, Amoafo Darkwah had to abandon his family’s two-acre cassava farm because of York infestation.

Ghanaians once knew this tree only as the “Devil’s Teak” but are now exploiting it as a material that can be used to make jute mats, which Newmont purchases to prevent soil erosion on its mine site.

This micro business jute mat operation was conceived by Abubakar, Newmont’s Newmont nursery manager who has left behind a large trail of good work, including growing a shaded forest where once there were only mining tailings. Bin says he learned of a way to use the tree when he worked at Newmont’s Indonesian operations.

In this video, people from the village of Tetyre join in stripping bark from these trees.  Bark stripped, the trees die within two weeks and will stop producing seeds. The dead timber can be used for minor construction needs or for cooking fuel, and much of the sawdust is used for growing at Bin’s nursery.

Then it’s time to treat the moneymaker, the bark. The fibrous material, taken from the bottom part of the tree, measures an average of one meter by five meters. This solid piece is first hammered flat so the fibrous structure can be pulled out, or woven into a continuous net material. The hammering process, where large hand-hewn mallets are used, resonates throughout the village with the sound of drums.

Abubakar says, “ The mat is then woven into a mesh, just like chicken mesh, thus giving it the ability to trap eroded soil particles during storm periods.”

Beyond the environmental functionality of the jute mats, there is the micro business that has provided income for some 800 people where money or paying work are as scarce as the York is plentiful.

“So the jute mats are used for controlling erosion in our mining areas. Which now accounts for 800 people – ladies, men, and students in this area. And they are getting their livelihood from this work.”

We hope more micro businesses such as this one Bin has started begin popping up across Africa and other developing areas of the planet.

PHOTOS: Glenn Meyers

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Glenn Meyers

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

Glenn Meyers has 449 posts and counting. See all posts by Glenn Meyers