Yam festivals are the hobs and lives of Igbo yam farmers!



Yams are cultivated or grown and eaten in many parts of the world including West Indies, West Africa, African, India; Asian and South America to name a few. From historical records, we are told that West Africa and African yams in Europe date back to the 16th century and that yams were taken to the Americans through precolonial Portuguese and Spanish on the borders of Brazil and Guyana!

It is also on record that Yams are a primary agricultural commodity in West Africa and New Guinea and were first cultivated in Africa and Asia about 8000BC!

We should be careful here about different types and species of yams. What is being paraded as yams in America, Canada and a few other countries of the world are merely sweet potatoes which ought not be classified as yams. From, my researches, I found that most South American and West Indian yams are like the yams cultivated in West Africa especially in Nigeria and Ghana!


There are so many yam cultivators all over the world but not many of them have yams festivals like we celebrate them in Igbo land under Igbo culture and traditions! That is why the Igbo nation or tribe take delight and pride in talking about our leadership in the world as far as yam cultivation and consumption are concerned!

We know that Ghana for example is one of the countries that regard yam cultivation with all amount of seriousness, because they normally have new yam festival celebrations in which the nation declares public holidays but they are miles away from the cultural Igbo yam festival celebrations! I respect Ghana because most of the Puna yams eaten in UK and many other countries in Europe are harvested and exported to these countries by Ghana!

yams festival

In Nigeria, there are many ethnic groups and languages and they too cultivate and eat yams which they name according to their dialects but then, the Igbos are on top both in cultivation and consumption as well as in various festival celebrations! The Tivs in Benue state are equally to be respected in both serious and huge yam cultivations and festivals.

Under the Igbo culture, customs and traditions, 'The feast of New yam' is celebrated in every part and corners of Igbo land with the utmost pump and pageantry second to none! We do this to give honour and respect to the gods and goddesses who gave us yam crops and vowed that no Igbo child shall ever die of hunger or starvation! We celebrate the Harvest festivals too!. THE NEW YEAR AND HARVEST FESTIVALS IN IGBO LAND AND IN IGBO CULTURE AND CUSTOMS!

I can't wait to quote the following description as in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia which went thus:

"NEW YAM FESTIVAL (Igbo in South-East,Nigeria)"

"The New yam Festival consists of prayers and thanks for the years past. Yam is the main agricultural crop of the Igbos, Idomas, and Tivs. It is the "staple" food of the Igbo people. The New yam festival,known as Orureshi in Owukpa in Idoma west and Ima-ji,Iri-ji or Iwa-ji in Igbo land is a celebration depicting the prominence of yam in the social and cultural life. The festival is very prominent among all the major tribes in Benue state."

From the above quotations, you will bear me witness that the Igbos are definitely on top in everything connected with yam cultivation, consumption and festivals!

Our people the Igbos do not play with anything associated with yams. We give the honours due to the gods and goddesses. Many of our people have received or achieved impressive cultural titles such as "Ogbu-ji, Eze-ji, Onwa-netiri-oha, including Osisinami-ego chieftancy titles through yam cultivation! In the past, many titled chiefs with several barns of yam are automatically qualified to have as much as 10 wives!

We celebrate yam festivals from the last week in August in my village it is called "Itensi" Our elders can never eat new yams without celebrating this cultural Itensi. The itensi, requires harvesting and the cooking of the new yams to be eaten by every member of the family.

After cooking the new yams, a kind of thanks giving ceremony like libation will be performed before the yams are eating. 'Libation' here means the act of pouring out native wines and throwing out kola nuts with some cultural incantations. This is a form of thanks to the gods and goddesses of yams. Once the the libation ceremonies are over the family can then start to enjoy the cooked new yams.

The Igbo people also have another impressive ways of thanking and remembering and honouring the gods and goddesses of yams. This is in the form of Intellectual Colloquim or lectures prominently called "Ahiajoku lecture!


You can not talk about yam festivals without mentioning the importance of Ahiajoku lectures. This was first introduced by the son of the soil of Igbo land late Dr Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe our first civilian governor of the Imo state in 1979! This Ahiajoku festival is equally to honour the yam gods! During the lecture, about 500 roasted or barbecued large yam tubers are eaten by all the participants as to enhance the importance of yams to our community.


The Ahiajoku festivals and lectures or colloquium is a wonder and the brain child of our late illustrious son of the soil,late De, Dr Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe! The aims and objectives of Ahiajoku festivals are as follows:

1. To define aspects of Igbo Culture and relate them to the main corpus of Nigerian culture as well as to Africa and World Civilization.

2.To create a challenging situation for Scholars to undertake relevant research on Igbo Cultur,especially the more basic and fundamental ones.

3.To relate the research findings to Igbo World view and total human development.

4.To establish a diachronic relationship in each discipline as regards Igbo human development.

The Ahiajoku lectures have and are delivered by prominent heavy weight Erudite scholars such as Professors M.J.C Echeruo 1979, Prof.Bede N Okigbo 1980, Prof.A.E.Afigbo 1981; Prof.A.O.Anya 1982;Prof.Donattus Nwoga, 1984, Prof. B.O Nwabueze, 1985, Prof.Pius Okigbo, 1986, Prof.M.A.Onwuejeogwu 1987, Prof. A.N.Okoro 1988, Prof.M.O. Chijioke 1989; Prof.A.O.Animalu, 1990,Prof.R.O Ohuche 1991; Prof. G.M Umezuruike, 1992; Prof. Emmanuel Obiechina, 1994, Pro.V.C.Uchendu 1995; Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Onwumechili 2000; Prof.of Physics Chinedu Nebo and including other distinguished scholars and professors as Nath Nnaji.

In conclusion, all sons and daughters of Igbo land and friends, and in-laws are advised to tap into the "Ahiajoku festivals and lectures archives for more insight about the Igbo culture. Marcus Harvey wrote: " "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots!"

Recipe for yams

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