Hello there, it's been a while I know. Nothing deliberate but just how the times feel... but hey you can still find interesting articles here if you scan through and I get comments you leave on here so drop one. Thanks!
Alright, so yesterday was Pelumi (Ella)'s birthday celebration. She is my first child and daughter, Ada as the Igbos call it. She clocked 7 and we went to church to celebrate with her friends over there. I harvested the first yam in our garden (also the one we planted first) when I returned from the church ( I left early with the brother before the service finished) while she was still there with her cousins. So when she got back, the following conversation ensued:
Me: Happy birthday again dear. Hope you enjoyed the time with your friends in church? And here, come see the yam that we agreed will be harvested on your birthday.
Pelumi: I did, thanks mum! The yam is big o!
Me: Yes, it is...and look at those other smaller two tubers from the same mound.
Pelumi: But Mum, why didn't you wait for me to come back?
Me: I'm sorry dear, I should have waited...I'll make it up to you, we will harvest the second one together on Saturday.
Pelumi: (smiles) Ok Mum, thanks!
Me: We will make pounded yam with it ehn? (smiles)
I then went on to explain to her how she has grown from that little baby (pointing to a picture on the wall of her as a baby) because of the food she has been eating and how the food comes from the soil. I will take time to explain how the fishes and the animals (like cow and chicken) also feed from the food grown in water or land...and the connection...the food chain. It is important that our children do not associate farming or cultivation with poverty, illiteracy, filth, shame, lack of culture, lower class (status).
Though this sort of conversation never happened with me and my mum but the cultural elements of land cultivation was learned from her very early in my life even though I was born and raised in the city and never really even visited the village (can count the number of visits i made till date on my fingers). I didn't lose this culture which was a huge part of my growing up years rather I have somewhat gotten hold of it as an adult and now utilizing my modern understanding to pass it down to the next generation. Thank you mum! You were the most practically intelligent being I know....I learned from you.
I will define Agri-CULTURE as the way of life of a people which involves nurturing the earth in order for it to yield to them and noursih them (growth). It is a very fundamental and important aspect of our cultuure as Nigerians and Africans. I remember many years s a teenager whenever we visit Lagos (the big city with people of class...ish) and we hear teenagers and adults asking whether yam grew on trees, many people thought it was cool as it showed how much aje-butterish you were. What it really showed is how much DISCONNECTED from the source (earth) such one is. How can one continue to consume food day in day out without understanding where it comes from and how it happens. It is this food that provides nourishment for our bodies to grow healthily and thus provide the framework for our minds and spirits to flourish. You were considered 'aje-pako' (nowadays Nigerian comedians who grew up in villages will deny this label and make fun of those considered so in their bland jokes which many so-called classy people will laugh at) if you knew that yam was a root tuber not just from reading Agric text but having actually cultivated the plant.
The focus of our education since inception has been largely theorized rather than practical and as such even the most practical of all subjects - Agricultural Science - is being taught theoretically and the examinations are also theory-based. It reveals how much disconnection from source (earth) is being perpetuated in the name of 'formal' education. Well, again I guess it comes down to each one of us raising children in this generation to correct this anomaly pending the time our education sector in this clime is overhauled and made to fit our nature and our environment.
I have been somewhat fortunate (call it good luck...lol) to have ample space of land in the houses I have stayed in to plant a garden. Maybe because I am a farmer and see the opportunities where others may only see weed. In our garden presently we planted Bitter leaf, Okro, Ugwu, Spinach, Ewedu, Turmeric (recently planted), Tomatoes, Curry, Sweet potatoes. Coco-yam and water leaf grew by themselves as a weed but left to grow as a plant. I also have Aloe Vera and flowers in pots. As much as I love the time out to interact with the soil and plants, much more important for me is the creation of the physical reality of Agric science to my children. Not just cartoon images or pictures in a text but to see physically and to touch and feel those plants. And then to watch them grow from seed to giant plants which are later harvested, cooked and eaten like the yam...the whole cycle. This is practical education which every child should not be disadvantaged to experience however little....even if just in a flower pot! It enables them to understand where the food really comes from so they do not get caught up in praying for manna to fall from heaven like the Chinese saying "Don't depend on heaven for food but on your own two hands carrying the load". It also enables them to understand the need to care for the earth and not to mistreat, pollute, waste and abuse it through chemical spraying, litter and cementing everywhere...with a knowing that it is their source!
Wole Soyinka, the most visible icon of erudition in Nigeria always tells about his hunting adventures which I bet he still indulges in till date. Yet this man is a Nobel Laureate (one of the highest Western stamp of erudition in different fields)!!! I have not heard any comedian relate their jokes to this man's seemingly 'awkward' passion and indulgence...or have you?
Do you remember these songs:
I am a farmer in my country
Everybody knows me well
If you loook me up and down
You will know that is true
(sanda lilly sanda lilly,
sanda lilly sanda lilly
sanda lilly sanda lilly
sanda lillysanda lilly)
Eni ko sise, ama ja’le.
KOI PE O! KOI PE O!!!
Agriculture is out ancestral occupation,
He who does not work, will steal.
IS NOT COMPLETE! IS NOT COMPLETE!!!
These are the subtle messages I passed to Pelumi on her 7the birthday. She has a lot to learn.....little by little.
I AM A FARMER by nature..... of the earth and of the heart!! Yep, that's me right there with the yam.