Iwu Nkwu in Mbaise ( Cutting of Palm Oil Fruits)

Palm oil fruits, Mbaise
Palm oil fruits
Iwu Nkwu in Mbaise – In Mbaise land, located in IMO state the Eastern part of Nigeria. There exist several cultural practices, such as Igbu nkwu, iwa oji, eri gwara, iwa akwa ( though it is practiced by few communities in Mbaise), igba ekpe among others. Most of these cultures are  practiced annually leaving only iwa akwa that is biannual in most cases.
Mbaise people are peace loving and are known for their hospitality, as such all these cultural practices are not only witnessed by them but it attracts people from all nooks and crannies of the world. People of different classes are always invited, ranging from the president, governors, kings and queens, dancers, musicians among others
Igbu Nkwu otherwise known as Cutting of  Palm Oil Fruits.
Palm fruits
Palms tree
Palm tree is one of the economic trees that grows well in Mbaise land. It can be process into various finished produces such as ;
Oil ..The oil we use in cooking foods. Also it is used in industrials producing body creams and soaps.
Palm kernel. Can be eaten raw, when processed can also be useful in processing of body lotions and its chaff serves as feed for animal consumptions.
Potash..for preparing some local delicacies such as nkwobi, abacha etc
Broom, for sweeping the house
Firewood. For cooking
Baskets,market woman use it mainly for shopping
Wine.. Wine tappers gets a special kind of unfermented wine from this tree. They call it nkwu ocha in Igbo Land. It tastes good too.
This tradition is an ancient tradition in Mbaiseland. In the past there exist the need for people to assist with Community development rather than waiting for government to provide everything, the quest to acquire these basic necessities such as light, water and good roads gives rise to this beautiful culture of palmfruit cutting. Most villages in Mbaise got electricity and pipe borne water through this means. Also in the past, villages used it to train their sons and daughters in school.
Assuming a community in Mbaise wants to embark on a project and they don’t have sufficient fund for it, all they will do is to agreed  to stop people from cutting the palm fruits in their farms for a given period, say between two to three months after which they will agree to start the cutting of the palm fruits at a stipulated day by rulers.  Every family from the said community is qualify to participate in this exercise. The exercise can be competitive though because everyone will want to harvest more than others.
Palm fruits
Palm oil fruits
This upon agreed by the village heads and Chiefs, they will pay a town crier, one of the traditional means of communication in Igbo land is through a town crier, a town crier goes to the village house to house with one of  the traditional musical instruments, in most cases he goes with what Igbo people will call Ekwe. For each house he beats the ekwe which the villagers are used to , and then it will cause everyone to be quite. The entire household will be as quite as a graveyard, that you can even hear the sound of a pin. The town crier will communicate the message at the top of his voice. Everyone will take note.
Before the agreed date, women mostly will start looking for professional climbers. They will hire them at an agreed fee, make part payment and inform the climber the fixed date. For any climber that is coming from afar, it is expected that his employee in this case will provide accommodation for that night. Climbers will go round the bushes looking for areas with high yield so as to know where to concentrate. The beauty of this is that, you’re free to cut any palm fruits in the land of a given community. So people who don’t even owe a palm tree can freely participate in this exercise. A night to the day, climbers will be seen everywhere sharping their cutlass and checking their climbing ropes for the harvest.
At the agreed date for the cutting of the palm tree,as early as 5 am in the morning, climbers and rays of torchlights can be seen everywhere in the bush. As the climbers are cutting, those that employed them will been seen picking and gathering them at agreed location. This exercise lasts for hours.
At mid day, the palm fruits will be divided according to agreed fraction. In some communities the will be divided into two, the owner will take half and the community will take half. While other communities will rather divide it into three portions, they would take two portions and leave the owner with one portion. But then everyone is aware and have agreed to the sharing formula before the Igbu Nkwu day.
The bidding starts, they will auction the portion(s) of the community to anyone that wants to buy, in which they will always go with the highest bidder.
At the end of the day they will gather at the market square and check how much the realized. If the amount is enough for the project in view, the community will execute the project,  if not, they can do free will donations or call on their sons and daughters in diaspora for assistance.
After the exercise the palm trees returns back to the owners.  This Igbu nkwu exercise can occur once or twice in a year depending on the community need(s).  At times it doesn’t occur at all. These days rich sons and daughters can be seen helping their communities in the areas government neglect.
Learn more about these wonderful people and their culture Mbaise People
Written By
Ndukwu Chisom