The Local Food System in Nigeria

Agriculture is one of the most critical aspects of education that I (a UTMartin student from Nigera)  had to learn in school and throughout our communities.  When I spent holidays in the village, my grandmother would have tomatoes, yam, pepper, vegetable leaves, plantains, watermelons, and paw-paws planted everywhere around her house.  With all this fresh food growing around the house, we did not need to purchase as much food. Even in her old age, my grandmother would use a hoe, cutlass (machete), and other farming equipment to clear the weeds or amend the soil.   I was taught about agriculture from middle school to university, but I never became a farmer. Still, what I know is that agriculture is a part of me, thanks to my grandmother who taught me the joys of tasting fresh results from her farming efforts.

Nigeria is at the corner of the Gulf Guinea on the west coast of Africa; it occupies 923,768 sq. km ( 356,669 sq mi). The space occupied by Nigeria is slightly more than twice the size of California or four times the UK’s size. Nigeria has a population of 201 million people (2019); it is ranked at No. 7 as the most populous country in the world; the capital of Nigeria is Abuja which is at the center of the nation, while the largest city in Nigeria is Lagos.

Agriculture is the most important sector of Nigeria’s economy, and it is about 70 % of its labor force.  Agriculture is made up of mostly small-scale farmers. Small farms produce at least 80% of the total food with 76 million acres (33%) of Nigerian lands cultivated.

Agriculture is the largest sector, contributing an average of 24% to the Nigerian GDP measured over the past seven years. Agriculture is divided into four sectors: crop production (87.6%),  livestock (8.1%), fishing (3.2%) and forestry (1.1 %). Major agricultural imports into Nigeria include refined petroleum, wheat, sugar, fish, and milk, while the major exports are sesame seeds, cashew nuts, cocoa beans, ginger, frozen shrimp, and cotton. Wheat dominates agricultural imports. Nigeria is the 48th largest export economy in the world ( 2018).

A man weeds his crop (Source: Nduati Githae, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Agriculture is one of the most critical aspects of education in Nigeria that I had to learn in school and our communities.  When I spent holidays in the village, my grandmother would have tomatoes, yam, pepper, vegetable leaves, plantains, watermelons, and paw-paws planted everywhere around the house.  With all this fresh food growing around the house, we did not need to purchase as much food. Even in her old age, my grandmother would use a hoe, cutlass (machete), and other farming equipment to clear the weeds or amend the soil.   I was taught about agriculture from middle school to university, but I never became a farmer. Still, what I know is that agriculture is a part of me, thanks to my grandmother who taught me the joys of tasting fresh results from her farming efforts.  

Interesting Facts About Nigeria

Nollywood is the nickname for the Nigerian movie industry. It is ranked as the second-largest producer of movies, producing up to 200 every week. Although this is behind Bollywood in India, it’s ahead of Hollywood in production numbers!

There are three significant ethnic groups: Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo, including 250 other ethnics groups. The official language is English. Nigerians have many spoken languages like Yoruba, Igbo, Fula, Hausa, Edo, Ibibio, and Tiv, among others ( we also have Broken English which can be called Pidgin English ). The major religions of the country are Christianity and Islam.

Simple words in some of the languages in Nigeria

  • Yoruba :  Bawo ni? (“baa-wo-knee”)—Hi, how are things?; Daadaa ni (“daadaa knee”)—Fine.
  •  Hausa:  Sannu (“sa-nu”)—Hi; Lafiya? (“la-fee-ya”)— Are you well?
  • Ezigbo ututu (“eh-zig-bu  oo-too-too”)  —Good morning; Kedu ka imere? ( ke-du ki-me-re)—How do you do?; Gini bu aha gi?( gi-ni  bu  a-ha gi)—What is your name?
  • Pidgin or Broken English: How now?“—How are you? or How is it going?; “Which thing you want?“— What do you want?’ “How body?“—How are you health-wise?

Rita’s Favorite Draw Soup Recipe

One of my favorite recipes is Okra soup and Garri or Fufu; Okra soup is a type of soup that is viscous/slimy textured. Draw soup is a term given to certain soups originating from the southeastern and southwestern parts of Nigeria.  My favorite Okra soup is easy to make – after pre-cutting the vegetables you are good to go. You can make it in different ways by adding “Ogbono (botanically known as Irivinga Gabonesis) Ogbono is a species of African wild mango trees that belong to the genus Irvingia.

Ogbono has different names in different parts of the world, but it is hard to find in the States:

  • ogbono –  Igbo people
  • goron – Hausa people
  • ogwi – Benin people
  • mbukpabuyo – Ibibio people and Efik people
  • oro by the Yoruba people
  • manguier by the French people
  • apioro by the Delta people.

It is not necessary to add ogbono to the Okra Soup Recipe, but in Nigeria, if you want the okra to be more viscous/slimy texture, you can add ogbono (the African wild mango seeds) to the soup.

Okra Soup is the choice Nigerian soup when you want to start giving your toddler adult food. This is because not only is Okra Soup very rich in vitamins, it is also very easy for the kids to swallow due to its slimy nature. And it tastes good too!

There is also the classic Okra Soup for grown-ups which has more added ingredients.

Ingredients for Nigerian Okra Soup (modified for Kids)

Source: https://www.allnigerianrecipes.com/kids/okra-soup-kids/

Before you cook the Kiddies Okra Soup…

Cut the okra fingers into tiny pieces. Grind the crayfish. Wash the pumpkin leaves (or spinach), and cut into tiny pieces. If you will use spinach, defrost and cut into tiny pieces.

Wash, cut and boil the fish. Leave to cool and debone.

https://www.allnigerianrecipes.com/kids/okra-soup-kids/

Cooking Directions

  1. Pour red palm oil in a clean dry pot and heat to dissolve the oil if it is congealed. Add the diced okra and start frying on medium heat, add some fish stock (or water) from time to time till you notice the okra start to draw. This process should take a maximum of 5 minutes to avoid over-cooking the okra.
  2. Now add the ground crayfish, the remaining fish stock, pumpkin leaves (or spinach), a pinch of salt and the fish and stir well.
  3. Cover the cooking pot and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

The soup is ready to be served with mashed potatoes, Semolina or Pounded Yam.

( This recipe is from the All Nigerian Recipes; Nigerian Okra Soup | All Nigerian Recipes. You are welcome and free to check out other Nigerian recipes).

What is Bitter Leaf?

https://www.allnigerianrecipes.com/kids/okra-soup-kids/

Bitter leaf is known as Vernonia amygdalina; it grows mostly in different parts of Subsaharan Africa. The plant can be used in traditional medicinal practice. The leaf can be used to treat malaria, typhoid, diabetes, diarrhea, tuberculosis, gallstones, and kidney disease. Also, it can be used to prevent cancer and lowering hypertension. The leaf has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Bitter leaf can be used to prepare different types of soup, for example, okra soup, ogbono soup, egusi soup, and bitter leaf soup,, etc…

Agriculture is part of the daily life of a Nigerian. It is very important to us. It’s something we had to do to  survive. It is something that has been passed down from generation to generation.

-Rita Nwedo

LFN Team Blogger