Sometimes, people believe that in the face of love or care, price isn’t really important.
This week's Mafi-Kumase Diary features an inspiring story about a 52-year-old 'Kokoe' vendor, Madam Gbeve Cynthia a.k.a Amokanane who is a mother of six from Amegakofe.
The report sheds light on how her 'Kokoe' business is fighting hunger among disadvantaged and low-income individuals, families, and groups in her hometown and neighbouring towns such as Avadre, Adzorkpoe, Kpeleho, Kumase, Kutime and Tsati in Central Tongu District.
Kokoe, the Mafi name for Kenkey, is a popular Ghanaian dish. It is known variously as Dorkunu, Otim, Kooboo among other locals in Ghana. The cuisine is a kind of fermented dough made of corn. Before cooking, it’s usually served in small balls and wrapped in cornhusk.
As a vendor, Amokanane inherited her mother's philanthropy when she was 17 years old. And for nearly 36 years, she has used her big-size Kokoe delicacy to pamper customers in and around her community. As a result, her Kokoe has become a favourite meal for many people especially the ‘greedy-guts’ because the cuisine doesn’t deprive even notorious eaters of good satisfaction.
Even in recent times when the size of 'Kokoe' has diminished in the food market due to increasing prices of food items, in Amegakofe, Amokanane is famed for selling oversized 'Kokoe' at a set price of Ghc1 to meet customers' delight. "Although the prices of items are rising, I still want to do something that can help my community because people know that my 'Kokoe' is usually big," she noted.
Within her hometown and its adjoining areas, Amokanane’s customer-friendly business has earned attractions from customer categories such as school pupils, farmers, okada cyclists, nurses and teachers. She confirmed that on weekdays she cooks 'Kokoe' twice daily to serve her customers. Besides, she indicated that she usually volunteers services to farmer groups and local construction workers in the area at discounted prices.
When asked if she uses size to maintain customer relationships, Amokanane replied: "I increased the size to help people eat, especially children, mostly. Sometimes I even give it free to children who are orphans," explaining that though there are other 'Kokoe' vendors in Amegakofe, customers patronize her 'Kokoe' because she always renders her service with compassion.
Surprisingly, like many other vendors, Amokanane goes to the market in Mafi-Kumase to buy maize for her cuisine. At other occasions, she uses her harvested corn for the business without focusing on actual profit. “It feels good to serve my community with food. I use the maize I harvest from my farm to prepare 'Kokoe' occasionally to cut cost,” she said.
On the basis of that, Amokanane revealed she could hardly support her family with proceeds from her business. Even that, she maintained she won’t discontinue preparing sizeable and affordable 'Kokoe' for the vulnerable and low-income groups in her village and surrounding areas. “I find peace when I think about the work I do and the strength God is giving me to continue my mother's initiative,” she claimed.
To this end, Amokanane is hopeful that little and kind supports from individuals and NGOs can help in replenishing her stock, constructing a modernized shed for her, and organizing other essential things needed to improve her business.
[Acknowledgement: my sincerest appreciation goes to the MAFI-KUMASE DIARY crew particularly Frank Ali and Samuel Tutu for their contributions]