Sunday, 3 February 2019

I love palm wine, I confess - Dr Raphael James

Dr Raphael James drinking his palm wine


In Igbo land we call it different names like: mmaya ngwo, mmanya nkwu, mmanya ocha; the Yorubas call it 'emu funfun' or oguro. Within Africa, Ghana call it ‘nsafufuo’, Ivory Coast call it koutoukou, Cameroon call it matango, Sierra Leones call it ‘poyo,’ Gabon call it ‘toutou,’ Congo call it ‘malafu’, South Africa call it ‘ubusulu’ while Algeria call it ‘lāgmi’. Other parts of the world like the Philippines call it ’tubâ’, Thailand call it ‘kache’,  Malaysia call it ‘kallu’ and Cambodians call it ‘Tuk tnout choo’.

Raffia palm trees 


 ‘Sweet Breeze’ a popular music group sang about it in the 80’s –‘Palm wine Tapper’ where they pleaded that the Palm wine tapper should remember them the next time he tapped.
Also, Amos Tutuola wrote “The Palm-Wine Drinkard” first African novel published in English outside of Africa in 1952, out of his love for palm wine.
With my 13 year old son who is my official photographer we had gone on an expedition in the forest of Iba close to LASU. I told the palm wine tapper that he needed to take us along for his tapping that morning, he was a bit reluctant, he even had to report us to a standby Police checkpoint and I went to them and introduced myself and what I do, so they assured him that he can go with me, that I provided enough evidence to be a good guy.  


On my way to the forest to tap my palm wine

We walked through the bush part for about 20 minutes, for another 25 minutes we walked on a plank foot bridge, built to escape walking on water and battling with reptiles and eventually we got the forest. He took us through the process of tapping a palm wine from a raffia palm, and he showed us the instruments for the job.
Basically palm wine is an alcoholic beverage, from different species of palm trees, like Palm oil tree and Raffia palm tree among others. For this study, the palm wine came from raffia palm.

Moving trunks of the branch hosting the palm fronds

The Raffia palm has great economically value, not only the wine but other valuable materials like, the palm leaves are used for roof constructions, it is also used for the knitting of baskets. The palm fronds are used for making brooms, this kind of brooms are mostly used to sweep the compound and not necessary inside the rooms. The trunk of the branch hosting the palm fronds are used for constructions like fence, chairs and making of ceilings.
Raffia Palm Fruits Seed are used for panting and also used for decorative purposes.  


sitting on a chair made of raffia trunk branch 

The palm wine tapper climbed the raffia palm and started the tapping process, he cut open the trunk and drilled a hole into the trunk, a deep hole on the top of the Raffia palm with an instrument he told me is called ‘Afe’ by the Igbos and ‘Oya be mu’ by the Yorubas, he attached a jerry-can to the flower stump of the tree for the fermented cloudy whitish sugary palm sap to be collected. The palm wine tapper confided in me that due to the nature of his nomadic life style, which has taken him round Nigeria over 40 years of tapping that he has about 7 wives, marrying a new wife wherever he settles to tap his palm wine.   
my host the palm wine tapper doing his thing 

Palm wine has so many values, including:
Palm wine contains natural yeasts which makes it so easy to ferment by the hours.
In Igbo Land, palm wine is used for traditional libations as offerings to a deity and even for ancestral worshiping. It is also used for traditional weddings, where the bride has to confirm her groom by identifying him from the guests and serve him a cup of palm wine. 

Dr Raphael James descending from a palm wine tree after tapping  

Palm wine is also used for birth and community celebrations.
Palm wine is mixed with other local herbs for malarial treatments and stomach problems.
An overnight combination of Palm wine with rice dough, helps the dough to expand and rise for very soft bread.
Palm wine is sometimes used to treat skin rashes in children.
For its sugar content, it is often used for making jiggery and coconut honey.
Fermented palm sap can be used for distilling alcohol and gins.
Growing up in the village, I enjoyed the edible larvae of weevils and beetles that came out of dead palms.


My son Ikemsinachuwkwu James trying his hand on tapping  

It is use to manage cardiovascular diseases like heart failure.
Palm wine contains probiotic acid, nicotinic acid, thiamine, vitamin C, protein and riboflavin so it’s good for the health.
Palm wine contains antibacterial properties, as such it is used for treating food-borne and diarrhoea diseases.
Optometrists, say the yeast in palm wine can boost eyesight.
Some people use Palm wine as a yeast substitute for leavening food products.
Palm wine is good for breast feeding mother for it boost breast milk production.

Dr Raphael James with fruit seeds of raffia palm 


Dr Raphael James enjoying his palm wine 

In all, never you forget the fact that Palm wine has alcoholic contents as such caution should be taken when drinking it, to protect the Liver and kidney. I love Palm wine, I must confess.  

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