A silent revolution is ongoing in the areas of cowpea production and processing in Nigeria, as income from the crop keeps improving rural livelihoods in the country, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture has said.
According to a statement by the body on Wednesday, farmers and processors in Osu, a community in the South West region of Nigeria, have said that processing the protein-rich crop into cakes, popularly known as akara, is akin to hitting a goldmine. Thousands of travellers passing through Osu town, located between Ile-Ife and Ilesha, stop daily to buy the popular ‘akara Osu’ from the vendors and eat.
An akara vendor, Mrs. Olaiya Oluwakemi, was quoted as saying, “The benefits are many. From frying of akara alone, I have been able to afford sending my son to the university. I built a house and now own a car.”
She said she had tried other ventures in the past but the processing of cowpea grains into akara remained the most viable option. The business has grown in the last seven years, culminating in her currently employing more than 20 people. On the average, she said she made profits of between N1500 ($10) and N2000 ($13) daily.
According to IITA, in a country, where about 50 per cent of the population thrives on less than $2 per day, this is a lot of cash.
“I have tried other ventures but this is just the best,” she reiterated.
Another cowpea processor, Chief Mrs. Olorunisola, was also quoted as saying that she inherited the business from her mother.
After managing the business in the last 30 years, Olorunisola now owns the famous Iyadunni Akara Processing Enterprise. The business uses about 100 kilogrammes of cowpea grains as raw material daily for making akara; it has five branches spread across Nigeria.
“Income from the firm has helped Olorunisola to build two houses. The third, a 3-storey building, is still under construction,” the body said.
Three of her children were said to have graduated from the university, thanks to income from akara.
Like Oluwakemi and Olorunisola, several other processors had benefited from the processing of cowpea in the community. It was said that most of the houses built in Osu have at least the foundation laid with income from akara.
Consumers interviewed said the protein-rich crop replenishes lost energy arising from fatigue experienced during long journeys.
“I look forward to eating akara osu whenever I am traveling on this route,” a passenger-by, Friday Adeshina, was quoted as saying.
Elsewhere in the northern part of Nigeria—home to cowpea production, this leguminous crop has proven to be a veritable source of income for farmers and processors.
In Borno, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano states and as far as Niger Republic, cowpea farmers, who adopted improved cowpea varieties and management practices, reported an average of 55 per cent rise in their incomes, according to data from the IITA.