Food: The Place of Akpu in Igboland


Akpu is a staple food gotten from cassava and eaten mostly by we – the Igbos. It is one of the numerous products cassava can be processed into.
The name ‘Akpu’ will always register a meaning and leave the hungry Igbo man or woman thinking of the possibility of a sumptuous meal. To the typical Igbo man who engages in rigorous and strenuous work pattern in his daily quest to make ends meet, Akpu is a life saver to a body that is both worn out and depleted of energy.
When eaten with expertly prepared local soup delicacies, Akpu will put an end to grunts and protests of the belly in its cry for hunger. Akpu has come to stay in the mouths and bellies of typical Igbo men and women.
In appreciating the highly satisfying nature of this delicacy, one should however, not totally overlook the process and stages it goes through before it is ready for consumption.
Every Akpu you buy in street corners or market places must have gone through these stages before it is considered adequate for consumption.
Firstly, the harvested cassava plants are peeled off and soaked in water to ferment. Then these pieces of fermented cassava tubers are then taken out and boiled. In the traditional method, the pieces of boiled cassava are pounded together in a giant wooden mortar using a wooden pestle. In between blows from the pestle, the mixture is turned by hand and water is gradually added till it becomes slurry and sticky. The mixture is then formed into a ball or rounded slab and served.
However, with the invention of the Akpu machine, preparation has become much less labour-intensive. These machines could do the work of ten men in a matter of minutes. The machines have greatly reduced the time spent in the production process of Akpu thereby making it readily available to meet the high demand of the product by consumers.
Akpu is eaten with local delicacy soups. To the Igbo man, Egusi, Achi or the sticky Ogbonno soup would be most preferable. This is to show that the consumption of Akpu all depends on the individual involved. His tastes and preferences will determine how well he derives satisfaction from his Akpu.
How healthy are Akpu products?
The question that should arise in the minds of every potential consumer is ‘are there any harmful effects of what I want to consume?’ “How healthy are these products I want to purchase? “What level of hygiene has been put in place during the production of these products to ensure my safety”. These and many more questions will guide consumers and help them stay away from products with diverse deleterious health effects.
As regards the health significance of Akpu consumption, it is a healthy food when it is taken with other classes of food-vegetables, meat or fish, etc help to enhance its nutritional nature (value). However excessive consumption of Akpu can lead to obesity and over-weight, as well as diabetes. It is therefore recommended that consumers of Akpu should apply their discretion and should supplement it with other balanced diet.
By and Large, Akpu is a healthy staple energy giving food mostly prepared and consumed by us – the Igbos.
Generating Income With Akpu
The sale of Akpu in Igboland is a big source of income to many families. Many women who sometimes act as the breadwinners of their homes depend on the business to fend for their children. Akpu production and sales has proven to be a veritable means of income generation. This is due to the high patronage enjoyed by the sellers of this ‘cassava product’.
Consumers from various class of society patronize these ‘Akpu’ sellers and seem to enjoy the food. It has provided many Igbos with jobs and has reduced the unemployment level in igboland especially amongst ‘uneducated’ women.
Akpu comes in various sizes and is sold at different prices depending on the size. It is relatively cheap and this may be one of the reasons for its high sales and respectability from consumers. The packaging of the food also affects its sales. Therefore it is usually well packaged in white ‘cellophane’ and arranged in an orderly manner to get the attention of consumers.
As of today, there is no serious advertising strategy used apart from the strategic positioning of sellers of the product in major corners of the City-Oba market and other markets. When ‘Akpu’ is well cooked and packaged, it can last for a number of days before it ‘expires’.
Production Process Involved in Akpu Production
The process of making Akpu begins with soaking peeled cassava tubers in water for about 3-4 days after cutting it into small sizes. or safety’s sake, it pertinent to cover the bowl or drum used for soaking the cassava. After about 3-4 days, you bring out the fermented cassava tubers squeeze them in a filter placed inside a clean bowl of water. This is done to separate the chaff from the paste of fermented cassava.
Due to its offensive odour at that early stage, some persons would pour out the light water that is over the residue, add fresh water, allow it to settle and then pour it out again. This they would do once or twice before pouring the residue into a bag that water can pass through.
The open end of the bag should be tightly tied with a rope; sometimes, a heavy object is placed on it to press the water out. After much water has been removed, whatever is left in the bag is poured into a cleaned bowl. Part of the paste is mixed with water in a pot placed on the fire, stir until it turns into starch. Pour cooked starch into the bowl of cassava paste and mix to your taste. Wrap in cellophane, put it in a pot of water and cook. Pounding a clean mortar, mix hot water if necessary, and wrap in nylon for your own consumption or for sale.
Some of the producers of Akpu have their own farms where they grow cassava, others buy from farmers who grow cassava. They either buy in heaps – harvested cassava tubers are heaped and a price is fixed to sell it, or in a truck load of cassava, or the farmer sells unharvest cassava on a piece of land to the buyer.
Despite the unpleasant odour involved in the production process of Akpu, more persons are still going into the business. We find more women and even young ladies involved in the business.
As early as 6 a.m, sellers of Akpu have arrived the market with their Akpu ready for sale. One may wonder why there are so much persons involved in the business. Akpu business, as common as it seems, is really uncreative. This can be traced to the less expensive nature of the production process and the rampant consumption of Akpu. Most people see it as less stressful and cheaper to prepare than pounded yam which is more stressful and expensive.
Apart from that, Akpu last longer than pounded yam which cannot remain as good as it was by the next morning. Most women involved in the business are the bread winners of their families. Others only use the profit to support their husbands in providing for the family. The young ladies are not left out, as most of them see it as a source to fund their education and well being. It is a source of employment has discourages them from vulgar activities like prostitution, stealing, robbery e.t.c.


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