Bam­bara nut: Won­der crop get­ting lit­tle at­ten­tion

Sunday Trust - - AGRIC BUSINESS -

Bam­bara ground­nut or Bam­bara nut, known in Hausa as “gur­jiya”, and botan­i­cally as vi­gna sub­ter­ranean, is widely grown in north­ern Nige­ria. Like ground­nut, it is a sea­sonal legume (pea fam­ily) grown dur­ing the rainy sea­son.

In most places where it is grown, the crop is planted alone in soft, sandy soil as main crop or in­ter­cropped (with other crops).

Bam­bara nut, how­ever, prefers, be­ing planted alone than be­ing in­ter­cropped as that will af­fect its yield. It is planted when the rains are sta­ble be­cause it does not tol­er­ate draught.

A Bam­bara nut farmer in Al­ka­leri Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Bauchi State, where its cul­ti­va­tion is very pop­u­lar, Kawuji Al­ka­leri, said it is planted between late May and early June to avoid dry spells or draught.

Al­ka­leri said, “we plant Bam­bara nut when we are sure that the rains have sta­bilised. Be­fore then, we make the ridges and pre­pare for plant­ing. I cul­ti­vate at least five hectares of Bam­bara nut every year. The plant takes about nine days to ger­mi­nate.”

He said he plants at least a big sack of Bam­bara nut every year, and that farm­ing it is easy and cost ef­fec­tive be­cause it does not re­quire fer­tiliser, her­bi­cides or at­ten­tion like other crops.

“The only dif­fi­culty in Bam­bara nut farm­ing is har­vest. Its har­vest is very te­dious as it has to be picked one by one from the ridges. It is very high-yield­ing, so a hectare can take many days to be har­vested and one has to be very skilled and pa­tient to do the work.

“Bam­bara nut takes about five to six months to ma­ture. It is har­vested around Oc­to­ber through No­vem­ber; which is the peak of the har­vest sea­son. The leaves turn red when the seeds ma­ture. There are many ways to har­vest the seeds. You ei­ther up­root the stem when the earth is wet or leave it to dry and harden, then you use hoe to dig it out,” he said.

Al­ka­leri added that Bam­bara nut had more yields per hectare than al­most any other crop ex­cept ground­nut.

He said, “we get at least 20 bags per hectare, de­pend­ing on the place and type of soil. One other thing is that it is not prone to most of the dis­eases that af­fect crops. So, a Bam­bara nut farmer is al­most al­ways sure of hav­ing a bumper har­vest.

“We had only an in­ci­dent some years ago, when our farms were at­tacked by a strange dis­ease. It made the leaves stunted and yel­low­ish. Many farm­ers were af­fected, so we had very low yield that year. Since then, we have not had an­other in­ci­dent.” Stor­age Bam­bara nut is stored ei­ther in spe­cial coated sacks or pes­ti­cide-treated nor­mal sacks.

Al­ka­leri said, “wee­vils like those that de­stroy beans also at­tack Bam­bara nut. So, to store it, one needs to be very care­ful.” Pop­u­lar del­i­cacy Bam­bara nut is mostly har­vested fresh and eaten boiled in many parts of the North. It is, how­ever, also salted and roasted in parts of Bauchi and Gombe States around Dukku (Gombe) and Al­ka­leri, Darazo (Bauchi).

Roasted Bam­bara nut is pop­u­lar among trav­ellers along the Gombe-Bauchi and Bauchi-Maiduguri roads, es­pe­cially some months af­ter har­vest and dur­ing the dry sea­son.

From Al­ka­leri in Bauchi State through Gombe, es­pe­cially at check­points and places where trav­ellers stop to eat, Bam­bara nut hawk­ers; mostly teenage girls, are al­ways seen sell­ing it by toss­ing it through ve­hi­cle win­dows for trav­ellers.

The boiled one is also pop­u­lar dur­ing the rains as a pop­u­lar snack; like boiled ground­nut.

How­ever, de­spite its pop­u­lar­ity and the num­ber of farm­ers en­gaged in its cul­ti­va­tion in Bauchi, Katsina, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Niger and other parts of the North, only a frac­tion of the crop is eaten in the North com­pared to what is ex­ported to the East.

Daily Trust on Sun­day learnt that in most parts of the North, peo­ple pre­fer the boiled fresh nuts. The salted and roasted type is, how­ever, pop­u­lar in many parts of the North East and North Cen­tral and in the South East where its con­sump­tion is very high.

How­ever, it is mostly con­sumed in the South East as a pop­u­lar del­i­cacy called “okpa”, eaten with pap as break­fast. Okpa is made from pow­dered Bam­bara nut. The pow­der is made into a thick paste, mixed with palm oil, “ugwu” or spinach leaves and then wrapped in ba­nana leaves, small trans­par­ent poly­thene bags or small con­tain­ers and cooked in wa­ter.

In the North Cen­tral, like in Niger, Kwara, Benue and Plateau states, lo­cals have dif­fer­ent del­i­ca­cies made from pow­dered Bam­bara nut.

Pro­cess­ing, con­sump­tion

Many peo­ple are en­gaged in the lo­cal pro­cess­ing of Bam­bara nut. Girls are mostly the ones in­volved in the pro­cess­ing and sell­ing of the crop. They are the ones who buy the fresh one, boil and sell at the be­gin­ning of the Bam­bara nut sea­son and sell the roasted and salted one af­ter har­vest.

Two teenage girls who our re­porter met at the Al­ka­leri mar­ket with trays of roasted Bam­bara nut on their heads said they sold both the fresh and the roasted ones de­pend­ing on the sea­son.

One of the girls, Zainab Babayo, said she bought and sold Bam­bara nut all year round, and that she sold about six mea­sures “mudu” on mar­ket days.

“We buy the old one at N400 and the new one N270 per mudu. We buy and process, then come out to sell. On mar­ket days like to­day, we sell in and around the mar­ket. Other days, we hawk along the road, at the check­points, fill­ing sta­tions or any other place where trav­ellers stop to eat,” she said.

Zubaida Idris, an­other Bam­bara nut hawker, said she is in­volved in the busi­ness all year round and that all her fe­male sib­lings are also en­gaged in the busi­ness. Big busi­ness Bam­bara nut has a value chain which has be­come big busi­ness. It is traded in al­most every weekly mar­ket in the North, es­pe­cially in ar­eas where it is grown.

A Bam­bara nut dealer at the Al­ka­leri mar­ket, Al­haji Umaru Jaji Gwaram, said at least five trucks leaves the mar­ket for Enugu every mar­ket day, and that it is also taken to places like Makurdi in Benue State and some parts of the South South.

Al­haji Gwaram said, “A 100 mea­sure (mudu)bag cost N17,000 last year dur­ing har­vest. But it can jump to about N30,000 dur­ing the rainy sea­son as re­sult of scarcity and high de­mand.

Gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment

On gov­ern­ment’s in­volve­ment, Al­ka­leri said, “there is no sin­gle pro­gramme by gov­ern­ment or any other body re­gard­ing Bam­bara nut farm­ing. Every farmer is on his own. My farm was once vis­ited by some re­searchers from the Ah­madu Bello Univer­sity (ABU), Zaria. They asked me some ques­tions and left. That was the only time some­one came and showed in­ter­est in what we are do­ing.”

From Balarabe Alka­s­sim, Bauchi Bags of Bam­bara nuts at Al­ka­leri mar­ket, Bauchi State, about to be trans­ported to the south­ern part of the coun­try

Bam­bara nut seeds

Girls hawk roasted, salted Bam­bara nut in Al­ka­leri

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