The geography of yam cultivation in southern Nigeria: Exploring its social meanings and cultural functions

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Abstract

Background Yam (Dioscorea spp.) is a very important common food crop in West Africa. Beyond its food and nutritious values, the ownership and cultivation of yam have many cultural, religious, and social meanings, which may vary between specific ethnic groups and regional areas. This study explored the diverse social, cultural, and religious perspectives associated with yam and its cultivation in southeastern Nigeria. Methods We used a comparative approach and utilized in-depth, semistructured interviews, local narratives, and our experiential background to understand the similarities and differences in the local notions of yam and their impacts on the general societal structure across three ethnic regions in southeastern Nigeria. We discussed the findings on a thematic basis to reflect the social and cultural issues associated with the ownership and cultivation of yam. The themes ranged from religious practices, impact on social status, and gender relations. Results We found no significant differences in the incidence of local perceptions and practices between the study areas. Conclusion This study has demonstrated the importance and functions of yam crop in structuring the social, economic, religious and cultural fabric of the society.

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Obidiegwu, J. E., & Akpabio, E. M. (2017). The geography of yam cultivation in southern Nigeria: Exploring its social meanings and cultural functions. Journal of Ethnic Foods, 4(1), 28–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jef.2017.02.004

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