Tag Archives: yam

The New Yam Festival: Nutrition and Importance for the Anam People [AUG 7]

7 Aug

Barthlomew Chukuemeka Okonkwo is a Chife Foundation Fellow who is currently studying medicine and surgery at Ebonyi State University in Nigeria. He has been assisting the Foundation interns this summer with community health surveys. Below he writes about the annual Anam New Yam Festival that will take place this weekend.

Anam Yam Trader

The new yam festival is a very significant cultural symbol of the Igbo society, and the Anam community is not an exception. Sunday, August 7th is the new yam festival of the Anam community and is characterized by various unique and heart-felt events: the official eating of the new yam for the first time of the new harvest and visits by in-laws, friends, colleagues, fans of Anam cultural heritage, and well-wishers from far and near. To this effect, everybody is looking forward to this year’s new yam festival of the Anam community and I myself am too.

The Other Side of the New Yam Festival:

Nutrition is an important aspect of living that can be indicated in the occasion of the new yam festival of the Anam community. During this period, chickens, goats, and cows are killed and used to make the native NSALA soup. This diet is rich in proteins and carbohydrates, which all Anam people eat joyously. The above mentioned nutrients are the basic composition of foods eaten all year-round by the Anam people such as expectant mothers, infants, nursing mothers, children, and the elderly. But this is not adequate nutrition for them because eating carbohydrates and proteins alone is not enough. Good nutrition for these sensitive groups should take into consideration their specific nutritional needs, and can be supplemented with minerals and vitamins found in the local tropical diversity of fruits and vegetables.

Emeka administering the health survey

It is my conjecture that fulling the nutritional needs of the special categories of people mentioned above (mothers, infants, children, elderly) is a viable tool for further stimulating growth and development of Anam people and their economy. For instance, good nutrition for young women develops strong expectant mothers that could go through the gestation period and deliver healthy babies without congenital malformations. Their babies will be more likely to be well-developed and able to develop, grow strong bodies and minds that can participate in Anam’s community as adults. This also prevents the delivery of underdeveloped infants and helps avoid a situation in which a family must spend their scarce resources and funds on their sick child instead of investing in their farms and educating their children. Better farms and well-educated youths will help create a thriving Anam community. Hence the Anam New City Healthcare Initiative we have been developing will be a welcome program as a pertinent tool to create viable African communities for self-sufficient African cities.

Post by: Barthlomew Chukuemeka Okonkwo

The Anam Market Network: Eke Day in Otuocha

18 Jul

Potato vendor in Otuocha Market

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.

Cell Phone Charging Kiosk Business Owner

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.

Yam Trader in Otuocha

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).

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