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Enugu, as the name implies, is situated on a hill. Located in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria, this beautiful and serene state is synonymous with coal production and okpa di oku. While the former has been rendered redundant, the latter continues to tantalize the taste buds of indigenes and non-indigenes alike. In fact, most communities in the erstwhile coal city state use this delicacy as ceremonial food. However, while this local food is not peculiar to Ndi Enugu, there is something special about Okpa Wawa. Those who have acquired the taste for it can easily differentiate it from those prepared and sold in other states. For this class of persons, a gift of this delicacy from friends or relatives who just returned from Okpa headquarters is most treasured.

Now, if you have ever wondered about the origin of this sumptuous local delicacy, this article is for you. Okpa is produced from Bambara nuts. The botanical name of this leguminous plant is Vigna Subterranea. Bambara nut originates from West African countries of Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast. It is, however, interesting to note that while people of Enugu, Ebonyi and Kogi cultivate this crop, they are not the chief cultivators. The chief cultivators of this highly proteinous food are the people of Jos Plateau and Yola.

According to Hillocks, Bennett and Mponda, the cultivation of this legume predates even the groundnut.[1] Bambara nut is alleged to be the third most important legume after cowpea and groundnut.[2] This crop is ideal for inter-cropping and can be inter-grown with maize, cowpea and groundnut.[3] It is a dependable food producer; its adaptation to poor soil and a high tolerance for drought gives it an edge over groundnut and cowpeas.[4] The nut is a nitrogen-fixing legume; it is an important crop for small holders’ livelihood and can be grown without fertilizer.[5] Bambara nut thrives well in sandy soil with a ph level of 5-6.5. It grows close to the ground and the nuts are produced underground.

In Enugu where the delicacy, Okpa is widely enjoyed, the Bambara nut and its extract have high economic value. Women are key players in the production, processing and retailing of this beans and its products. Before Okpa can be prepared, the pods are shelled and the seeds are grinded by heavy duty grinder to produce the fine flour used in making Okpa. Preparing the meal requires very few ingredients as it has a natural flavor which is ruined by excessive spices. It takes about forty five to fifty minutes to prepare and can be best enjoyed with cold coke, pap, soaked garri or tea.

[1] R. J. Hillocks, C. Bennett and O.M. Mponda, “Bambara Nut: A Review of Utilization, Market Potential and Crop Improvement,” African Crop Science Journal, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2.

[2] .H. Mkandawire, “Review of Bambara Groundnut Production in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Agricultural Journal, 2007, 474-470

[3] Hillocks, Bennett and Mponda, “Bambara Nut”4.

[4] Hillocks, Bennett and Mponda, “Bambara Nut”4.

[5] Agbonlahor Mure, Ashaolu Olumuyiwa and Obayelu Elijah, “Value Chain Analysis of Bambara Grondnut and Livelihood Sustainability amongst Households in Derived Savannah Belt of Nigeria, 4.

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This article was first published on 14th January 2019


Udevi, Obiamaka Angela holds a Master of Arts degree in History & International Studies. She's a freelance writer with a passion for food and healthy living. She can be contacted through her email address,

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