BEYOND BIAFRA: From the heart of Aba, a food revolution is coming

beyond biafra

by Victor Akhidenor

Agbai Amarachi is on a mission. She is a student of the department of Food Science and Technology at Abia State Polytechnic, Aba and she wants to take the world, Nigerians at least, on a new adventure.

“I’m working on the proximate analysis of cassava flour blended with African yam beans flour and cooking banana flour,” she says.

To put it simply, she’s trying to rethink the way Nigerians eat, especially foods popularly known as ‘swallows’.

“I shudder when I see people consuming fufu flour,” she says. “It contains carbohydrate and starch which is not good for the system. African yam beans contain protein; the cooking banana contains nutrients and minerals which is good for diabetic patients and those not suffering the ailment.”

Beyond enlightening Nigerians about the dangers of certain food habits and practices, Amarachi hopes to tackle the problem with entrepreneurship.

“After school, I hope to set up a company,” she says. “Our product will be natural food, and this will be our first.”

By “this,” of course, she refers to a special, ostensibly healthy version of the food whose dangers she laments – the result of a process of drying, grinding, all under strict observation and analysis procedures.

“Many people now eat canned foods that are made of chemicals,” she complains. “So we need more homemade food that’s well prepared. Moreover, we don’t know how these canned foods and other things we buy in the market are produced. This product of mine contains protein and other essential nutrients. And I’m sure people will buy it so far you let them know its nutritional value.”

There’s one catch, however.

“It’s still a project,” she says. Which is to say, she hasn’t tried it yet.

“But if it scales this hurdle then I will move to the next step,” she’s quick to let you know. “Mind you, I have patented the idea!”

New yam festival

Sixty-eight kilometres away, Igboanusi Lucy Chibugo, is hatching other plans.

The 500-level student of Agricultural Economics and Extension in Abia State University, Umuahia campus, is laser-focused on women in her own case

“Nigeria is food dependent that’s why I decided to study this course,” she explains.

“I would love to establish my own farm and employ farmers who will go from sustenance farming to exporting farm produce.

“I want to engage idle women and move them from rural farming to mechanised farming. I will employ women who are mainly housewives and pay them salaries. I want to tell the women how they can start and sustain their own farms without relying on their husbands’ salary.”

Beyond subsistence, she hopes to educate women both on how to use farming implements effectively as well as new, innovative techniques for planting yams.

“It is called yam mini-set technique which leads to harvesting micro tubers,” she says.  “After planting yam mini-set, you get micro tubers by cutting of weigh yams into different sizes to get micro tubers. The next year you get micro tubers and continue the process.”

She also has her eyes set on cassava and, not surprisingly, she is thinking of things no one has seen before.

“There’s a new variety of cassava called yellow cassava,” she says. “Some people when they are frying garri they pour palm oil into it to get yellow garri but with this one you don’t have to pour red oil into it because it will have that colour after frying.

“It is good for the eyes and after eating it for a while you won’t need your glasses again [referring to me].

“Most importantly, it takes lesser time to harvest than the normal cassava, say about five to six months. And it is also good for the body.”

Beyond Biafra is YNaija’s citizenship series for the month of April. Find more entries in the series here.

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