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How Argungu women make money from rice chaff

Not many would have imagined that there is money in gathering rice chaff at the mills. It is generally considered a waste product that litters…

Not many would have imagined that there is money in gathering rice chaff at the mills. It is generally considered a waste product that litters the mills and their surroundings.
However, some smart women in Argungu, Kebbi State have turned rice chaff gathering into a money-spinning business and they are smiling to the bank. Some of the women have been in the business for as long as 16 years. Buyers of the chaff include cement factories, cattle breeders and others who find it useful for one purpose or the other.
Speaking to Daily Trust on Sunday, Halima Audu, who claimed she started the business about 17 years ago, said “shortly after I started, I realized that there was so much money in it. I then brought some of my friends to join me and we are all happy today doing the business. It is a good and profitable venture but many people are into it now.”
She however admitted that there are times when the chaff is  difficult to find because of high demand at the mills. “Previously, I used to sell as many as 20 to 25 bags a day but now I could hardly sell 10 bags. Things are really tough for us now. Our profit margin is very low compared to what we used to make in the past.  We are also experiencing difficulties in the business due to the  high number of people who have come into it.”
Aisha Masankware is one of the women Halima introduced into the business.  She told our correspondent that this is her 14th year in the business. “We usually go to the rice mills to gather the chaff, work and package it into sacks to sell to our customers. The Fulani cattle breeders are always here to buy from us. They patronise us a lot for their animal feed. The agents of the cement company in Sokoto, also come here to buy from us. I don’t know what they use it for, but they are always here to buy the rice chaff from us.  Sometimes we sell a bag at the rate of N500 and at times for N400. There was a period we sold a bag for as high as N1000, but this time the business is dull and price has gone down. Years back, we would just go to the rice mills and gather the chaff because it was more like we were helping the millers to clear the area. It didn’t cost us anything but now they have realized its importance and they make us pay before we are allowed to remove it,” she said.
Halima added,  “ sometimes, we have to travel from here to villages like Bubuche, Gulma, Alwasa, Felade, Augie, Merah, Bagie and around Argungu, to get the chaff. When we return, we would repackage the product into bags.  Some of these villages are over 50 kilometres away from here but we have no choice since it is our only source of livelihood. It is from this business that we feed and maintain our families. Some of us are widows and we have children in schools, even in higher institutions. We are responsible for their school fees, upkeep and feeding. God is helping us through this business.”
She called on the Kebbi State government to assist them in growing the business. “I remember the governor was here during the campaigns when he visited Argungu. He saw what we were doing and he made promises to us.  Since he was sworn-in we have not seen him but we know he will keep his promise. Look at this place, it is close to the river where the Argungu fishing festival takes place and the entire area is waterlogged. During the rainy season, we find it difficult to do our business because water will take over the place we keep our goods.  We appeal to the governor to assist us. We want him to help us to construct a shed to make it conducive for us to do our business. Many of our goods are damaged by water due to the heavy rainfall but if a shed is built, they will be protected. There are times when our goods are stolen and there is very little we can do as women.” 

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