Rita, a Farmer and an alumna discusses what makes her proud this Black History Month 2021

by | Oct 21, 2021 | Alumni/careers, Humanitarianism and Conflict Response, Postgraduate | 0 comments

Rita Otu, a Farmer at Beau Haven Farms and an alumna from The University of Manchester, having graduated from the MSc International Development course in 2007,  discusses what makes her proud this Black History Month 2021.

“My name is Rita Otu, I am African, Nigerian and I’m proud to be a farmer. One of the most beautiful things about agriculture is how incredibly diverse we are. From great soil comes great food. I am happy to share with the world our food and culture. Food is universal, but the culture of preparing it is unique to each community.

My cultural identity is through food. Food is a common language that brings us together. Our food has a symbolic meaning that makes it more than what is on our plates. Our Food is who we are, where we come from, how we live, what we believe, and who we will become. As a farmer, we are condensed into dishes and bites, like memories garnishing our stories. Our food is all about beautiful stories because it prompts connections and builds communities.  

On the other end of the spectrum, the kind of food we eat often depicts the tale of the people who cook and consume it, especially for the likes of farmers, who are professionals of a very different era.  Our food is important as it reflects on history when it comes to discussing our cuisine. As a farmer I grow different crops like cassava, plantain, maize and orange flesh sweet potatoes.  I will share the beautiful cuisines made from cassava. Let’s talk about our food made from cassava. The beautiful song we sing during the harvest of cassava (IWA ANEM) signifies the great harvest and the sweetness of it.

Every meal tells a story.  First is Edita IWA (made from cassava chips). Edita IWA carries an emotional memory.  It is an expression of cultural identity. We use it to serve our visitors and guests during events, weddings, etc.  Another example is  Garri and FOFO (made from cassava too). The aromas and flavours make an imprint in our minds when we combine it with our various cuisines, for example Afang, Edikan Ikong, Etihi and Afia efere.

Akwa Ibom state is a Uni-culture state because our culture and traditions are the same. We have strong storytelling traditions. In many parts of the state, especially in INI Local Government Area after dinner, the village congregates around a central fire to listen to the storyteller.  This used to be fun for me watching and listening to the storytellers when I was a child.  Akwa Ibom State isn’t just about food. Our craft is what makes us unique. We use our traditional language (EMEDIO) to greet people, so they’re embracing culture. From there we’re showcasing ingredients from one end of the country to the other, so showcasing cuisines celebrates customs and communities. Secondly, Raffia city is a beautiful serene environment decorated with palms. The Raffia city hub is a place for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

As a farmer, my food is my connection to my culture, it’s my connection to my spirituality, to language and, more importantly, to the planet. It connects me right through my culture and the people. Remember, there is no future without agriculture and there is no agriculture without women, I am an African and I am Proud.