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Painting the future of Anam

8 Aug

a gathering

The children of Anam are talented and creative individuals. They are strong, smily and friendly. Most importantly, they are eager to learn and have an incredible potential to do so. As it could be derived from Aristotle’s thinking on “potentialities and actualities” and from Amartya Sen’s “capabilities approach”, children are a seed project par excellence. If the freedom to choose between a different set of alternatives is given at a sufficient level, they can embody the biggest force of change in society.  They therefore represent the future of  Anam City and the future of their community and culture.

Last weekend, I gathered a group of ten kids between four and fourteen years old coming from Mmiata, Iyora and Ebenebe to draw everyday life scenes in Anam. I will here underline several findings that came along this interesting activity by discussing a number of drawings. These will allow me to verify the initial statements of this post.

When children were given the opportunity to draw, they approached the paper with some fear. Initially, they copied my drawings with care. However, they quickly took their own initiative and uncovered their character, humor and savoir-faire. A multiplicity of colours and forms started spreading on the white sheet of paper.

Here one can observe some examples of the first attempts to draw a house. It was fascinating to notice how they quickly improved their creations, after understanding fully the shape they were dealing with and adapting it to the local standards.


The drawings were mostly separate objects floating on paper, scattered images without no real relationship between each other. The beautiful figures drawn by Oniebushi, as shown below, are isolated, independent and enclosed in thick lines, as if they were guarding a secret. However, as a group they do not tell a story, but rather many individual ones.

floating objects

Some of them where particularly fortunate when using colors and creating shapes, while others had a particular obsession with numbers and rather complicated calculations which reminds us on how diverse human abilities are.

numbers vs colors

It was interesting to see how they twisted and mirrored numbers in a row, letters in a word or  even full words. Notice, for example, how they write the word “cup” below. I took advantage of this moments to clarify the state of the art of our alphabet and our numbers. As an unexpected gift, the chilfren thought me how to count in Igbo! Indeed, interacting with Anam children is a shortcut to learn their language.


The most repeated objects in their drawings included: houses, churches, trees and coconut trees, men with machetes, women carrying buckets, shirts, chicken and roosters, fish, yams and other fruits, cars, vans, helicopters, canoes and canoe paddles, umbrellas, chairs, benches, cups and pots, football scenes and finally mobile phones and their power supplies as you can observe below.


The compilation of these random objects illuminates clearly the everyday life experiences of  children in Anam. On the one side, it tells us about their culture and their values. It makes one understand better their surrounding environment and one can even guess which are the sounds of this area, what are the main weather challenges and even which are their nutrition patterns. On the other side,  these drawings can also inform on how some ongoing seed projects that are growing Anam New City, such as the introduction of mobile money, can be nothing else than a success. In particular, by observing how mobile phones are already an important part of the everyday life of Anam children.

After playing with them for several hours I learned that these girls and these boys are exceptional. There is much potential in their little hands. All in all, this confirms how children can play an essential role in the social engineering of  Anam New City and Anam New City can, in return, offer them the necessary opportunities to fully develop their set of innate capabilities. As the Igbo proverb tells us, “ora na azu nwa”, it takes a village to raise a child.

Post by: Isabel Carreras-Baquer

Shaping Future Market Models for Anam City

2 Aug

Yam market study

It is well known that major cities and empires have developed around market crossroads. Anam City is a powerful future junction for the establishment of a regional market of unique agricultural and livestock produce. It therefore has the potential to help reduce current food imports in a resource-full country like Nigeria.

Anam has long been known as the “food basket of Anambra State.” This fertile land is a major producer of yam, cassava and fish. These and other goods are cultivated here and later sold in major local markets like Mmiata and Otuocha. Such activities involve more than 50 percent of Anam’s current population in the farming and trading sectors. However, the Anam community suffers several problems making full use of its resources. This blog post will discuss a few of them (lack of storage technology, information gaps and energy shortages) with efficiency as the underlying issue at the root of all these problems.The creation of a new market model could offer innovative and visionary solutions to help the Anam people.

Storage is a critical topic when discussing markets. Here in Anam, farmers store their harvest using traditional methods such as yam barns or oba in Igbo. These structures are wisely designed half a meter above ground and under palm fronds in order to avoid yams being spoiled by floods, heat or sun.

Obas are positioned half a meter above ground level by flood stilts and are covered by palm fronds

Despite its ingenuity, obas do not allow yams to be preserved for more than three months. This major constraint forces Anam farmers to sell their harvest at a very specific time of the year. Local markets are then flooded by farm goods which are sold at low prices due to increased competition. As a consequence, when the harvest season is over, most impoverished households suffer from low incomes and lack of alternative livelihoods. Offering improved storage facilities would therefore boost farmers’ ability to control market forces. It could help households improve their food supply during the planting season, increasing health and nutrition patterns. As well, this would also reduce the need for loans at a very high interest rate.

Lack of access to information is another major market failure that undermines Anam’s socioeconomic potential. Anam people have therefore massively entered the mobile phone industry to improve communication.

Family with mobile phone on the tree

In this respect, mobile phone practices are changing the patterns of information transmission in Anam and are also being incorporated in commercial and financial practices to avoid theft and promote fruitful economic transactions. Cell phone businesses are proliferating in many small rural towns in Anam, such as Iyora and Aboegbu, and are a source of entrepreneurship among farmers. For all these reasons, the new Anam City project is striving to position itself ahead of the curve, exploring diverse possibilities to access information, promote technological literacy and increase livelihood opportunities by introducing mobile phone technology to a wider audience. For more interesting reading on the topic of Africa’s emerging mobile technology and Nigeria specifically, check out the final chapter in Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles by Richard Dowden.

However, a reliable source of energy is crucial to promote the use of this mobile technology. Currently, Anam suffers electricity shortages and almost all Anamites are petrol- and kerosene-dependent. Both the noise and air pollution caused by generators leaves this community with a degraded environment and decreased comfort levels. The Anam City project is therefore considering integrating solar panels into the design of future kiosks in the marketplace. In a first phase, these kiosks would provide mobile recharging facilities and in subsequent phases could expand to allow access to PCs and the internet. Solar-powered kiosks could also promote efficient financial transactions through a mobile money system, and they could become a source of entrepreneurial activity to diversify household income. This will free entrepreneurs from the cost of diesel and the inconveniences of generators (see the graph below).

Inputs and outputs for a typical Anam farmer

In the long run, once internet access is secured, the introduction of smartphones could also be explored as a means to expand access to information crucial to farm businesses: market price fluctuations, weather forecasts, up-to-date farming technology, increased farm planning processes, etc. Altogether, these could lead to the development of future research labs for farmers’ smartphone applications that could add value to the growing economy of the city.

In short, Anam is a resource-full land, but the community suffers several challenges. Storage inefficiency, information gaps and energy supply shortages are major market failures undermining Anam’s socioeconomic potential. The Anam City project is currently designing a new market model that will blend the traditional socioeconomic energy of Anam with innovative and forward-looking technological solutions to push the community further. This physical and social facility will allow Anam to capitalize on its cultural, social and commercial competitive advantages and will help link the city locally and globally.

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