The eight communities of Anam have a flourishing market system designed to meet the needs of each town in the region. Each town in Anam has its own “Eke” market day, which occurs every four days, and these four-day cycles are designed not to overlap with each other in order to avoid conflict between markets in various towns. These market days are clearly pivotal points for the community – a common response to questions about scheduling community meetings and outreach is “Any day but Eke.”
In Otuocha, a recent Eke day was Saturday, and the next Eke day will occur on Wednesday. Although there are always standing stalls and shops in Otuocha throughout the week, on Eke, farmers, vendors, and consumers alike flock to the river’s edge to engage in a lively series of trade negotiations. The goods for sale range from ground nuts to dried fish (used as a form of seasoning in many Nigerian dishes) to fresh garden egg (a local relative of eggplant) and okra. Perhaps the most important and plentiful crops sold at Eke market are yam and cassava. These two staples of the Anambra region are specialties of the area, represent a lucrative possibility for economic growth – given the right conditions.
Currently, traders from around Nigeria come to Anam to purchase yams and cassava only to resell them around the country at higher prices. Moreover, because Anamites do not have an effective storage system for their harvest, the majority of crops are sold during the annual harvest in August, the income from which usually lasts through approximately December, according to local sources. That income then must last for the remaining nine months of the year until the following harvest in August. Essentially the people of Anam operate within an annual cycle of famine and plenty, a pattern they are eager to escape if they can gain access to improved crop storage technologies.
The local market also relies on a complicated network of middle men (or traders) who purchase crops directly from farmers and then resell them at a higher price. For instance, the yam trader (pictured below) rents a small stall located a bit offshore from the river. On Eke market day, he makes the short journey down to the river’s edge where local farmers arrive to sell their latest stock. Alternatively, he may sometimes travel directly to farms in the area to purchase yams, bringing them back to his stall and then selling them at a marked-up price. Anam’s economic network is rife with these types of trading relationships – a inventive means for creating efficiency in the face of failed and costly transportation networks connecting local markets (such as Otuocha) and larger regional markets (such as Onitsha and even Lagos).