Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
In this age of technological advancement, most traditional practices in Igboland as they relate to farming, marriage and other cultural practices have been discarded or relegated to the background but not for the women of Aboatulu kindred, Avomimi village, Enugwu- Ukwu, Njikoka Local Government Area, Anambra State.
Among the traditions of the people of this area is the communal harvesting and production of palm fruits for palm oil. Known in the local parlance as Akwu Oha, the practice entails mandating the womenfolk to go on a certain day into their common farmland to harvest palm fruits and even firewood on a large scale. After the mass harvest amidst fanfare and bonding of friendship and unity, the palm fruits and firewood are divided among the women.
In a recent harvesting of Akwu Oha by Daily Sun, it was fun as both the educated and the local village women all mingled together throwing banters amidst work.
One of the oldest women in Aboatulu kindred, Mrs. Bridget Mkpume in a charge during the harvest assignment called on the women in the locality to hold fast unto the tradition and culture of their kindred.
She said the present wives of the Aboatulu kindred should respect the culture and tradition of their kinsmen which mandates the women to go to their common farmland to harvest their palm fruits or firewood.
She disclosed that the common farmland was given to the women by their husbands over 100 years ago as a means of uniting their wives and making them industrious in a common front – farming.
Mkpume regretted that the modern wives appear not to value the spirit behind the practice anymore.
“The young wives do not truly appreciate these culture and tradition that have been preserved over years by their senior co-wives.
Modernity has really ripped the values, cultures and tradition of our kindred and we are truly appealing to young wives of the great
Aboatulu kindred not to allow this great channel of unity be eroded because of foreign ideology,” she said.
Mrs. Ifeoma Anagor, retired teacher said the common farmland was unanimously set apart by the men of the kindred for their wives to also cultivate cash crops in order to ensure provisions of various home needs.
She said the common large farmland of Aboatulu kindred was owned by their husbands’ fathers who gave it to the women as an economic empowerment so as to keep the entrepreneurial skills of the women alive.
Corroborating Mkpume and Anagor’s claims, Mrs. Regina Okafor said the gift had yielded much desired results among the women of the Aboatulu kindred.
She said with economic tree like the palm fruits, trees of firewood and other subsistence farming exercises carried out in the common farmland, the women have used its proceeds to raise great children among whom are medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, bankers, pharmacists, agriculturists, businessmen amongst others today.
Okafor said the family would not lack food in the house as it was expected that the wives would sell their farm produce to get cash.
Mrs. Ngozi Mbachi, president of Aboatulu Kindred Women Union joined the elders to call on the young wives to ensure that the culture and tradition of the women in sustaining the legacy of Akwu Oha and farming in the common farmland do not go into extinct under their watch.
She said their husbands’ fathers and forefathers had foresight and vision of keeping a channel of unity among their wives and son’s wives knowing the importance of peace, unity and economic empowerment.
Mr. Augustine Agu confirmed that their grandfathers gave the land to the mothers to farm and they in turn have maintained the legacy.
According to him, their forefathers were wise in the sense that giving out the acres of land to the women alone to farm had solved lots of problems because the women, especially those dwelling in the village are making good use of the land.
Agu said the men only come around when there is problem of any kind of molestation against the women in the farmland.
Mr. Chiadikobi Mbachi said the farmland had really brought out the skills in the women as virtually all of them dwelling in the villages maintained the status quo only for a few of them who resides in the city.
Going down memory lane, Mrs. Benedette Okafor, former vice president, said around1972 when she got married into the kindred, the women used to come into the farmland as early as 6am to harvest the palm fruits on an appointed date.
She said there were certain rules guiding the farming exercise in the common farmland and that whoever erred would be disciplined accordingly.