Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Cocoyams in Africa plus an easy recipe

Cocoyams have a long history of cultivation in Africa, especially in West and Central Africa, where they are a staple food for many people. Cocoyams are rich in carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals and can be cooked in various ways. Cocoyams can also provide food security and income for small-scale farmers, especially women, who are the main producers of this crop.
 
Making a pounded cocoyam fufu recipe in Central Africa
Making a pounded cocoyam fufu recipe in
Central Africa

Where yam is King of crops, African cocoyams are often associated with peasant crops; cocoyam is considered a poor man’s crop or a woman’s crop.

Women cocoyam farmers play an important role in farming for daily food and income for their families, especially in Nigeria which is one of the largest producers of cocoyam in the world contributing about 40 percent of total annual production.


Cocoyam have several plant varieties, some with edible tubers and others with edible stems. Cocoyam or Taro plants are a traditional woman's staple root crop in many African countries. All plant parts may cause stomach upset if eaten raw, and the sap may irritate skin.

Cocoyam, if eaten raw, the calcium oxalate crystals causes a stinging feeling to the mouth and throat; cocoyam must be cooked before being eaten. Foods also high in calcium oxalate crystals are spinach, beets, cocoa powder, almonds, strawberries and cranberries. Cocoyam is a generic term for the arrowleaf elephant ear varieties of the tropical starchy tuberous root crop.

Joseph Onyeka with at the National Root Crops Research Institute state's, Farmers depend on cocoyam as a major staple food during critical periods such as conflict, famine and natural disasters. The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) says “In West and Central Africa cocoyam is often associated with low income and socioeconomic status, and its production system is largely an informal activity.

As a result, cocoyam is usually considered a poor man’s or woman’s crop, as most producers are female. In Ghana, a woman who does not have a cocoyam farm might as well be a non-farmer, Onyeka stated. Following an old eastern Nigerian tradition, female farmers normally have cocoyam farms that their sons-in-law are expected to help with cultivating.

Women are the cultivators of cocoyam farming in most African countries, thus improving cocoyam production should have a direct impact on the most economically vulnerable groups. Women cocoyam farmers play an important role in farming for daily food and income for their families, especially in Nigeria which is one of the largest producers of cocoyam in the world contributing about 40% of total annual production.

African cocoyam vegetable soup
African cocoyam vegetable soup

Ofe Onugbu Cocoyam Vegetable Soup Recipe

Ingredients
1 large cocoyam root peeled and diced
3 large tomatoes, diced
2 handfuls bitter leaf or kale
2 medium chopped onions
1 medium chopped red bell pepper
1 medium chopped green bell pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups vegetable stock


Directions
Add all ingredients to a large pot, simmer until thick 25 minutes. Serve warm with rice.
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