What do you know of the Okposi people of Ebonyi? They are one of the most peaceful and hard working tribes in Eastern Nigeria.
The Okposi are found in Ebonyi State, Nigeria. In Ebonyi there exist a huge salt deposit at Okposi Salt Lake. Hence Ebonyi is regarded as the salt of the nation. The people of Okposi see this salt lake as a source of revenue for them which they process for sale to buyers. The people of Okposi would go to any lengths to protect visitors. They like to party and hold monthly festivals and title taking ceremonies.
Okposi was said to have been founded by a man known as Enechi Akuma. He was an inhabitant of Agala, Benue State, Nigeria who came to Ikwo with his family before moving to Okposi. They settled down to form smaller villages with aided the formation of a political system known as Okwu-Okposi (mass-meeting).
The Okwu-Okposi (mass-meeting) is the form of government practiced in Okposi. Here every male child is expected to attend the meeting which is usually held at the Eke Okposi market.
Ani-oha is a shrine where people are expected to swear to an oath whenever matters requiring secrecy or observation of some traditional rites are required. The meeting is usually opened by the oldest man in the village who offers kolanuts to the ancestors and prays that the meeting goes peacefully.
The Okposi people believe in a supreme God but that does not stop them from worshipping other gods. Their highest deity is called the chi or rather Ochangene. Chi is revered among the people of Okposi and because they believe he is too powerful to be petitioned directly, no shrine is usually built for him. One can only appease him by bringing ones hand forward and looking up towards the sky saying “Ochangene , be my witness”
The people of Okposi are very industrious. They work hard to take care of their family. The two notable occupation in Okposi are; farming and salt production.
The high rainfall in Okposi has made the people to turn into farming as their major occupation. Farming is usually practiced mainly by the men who cultivate crops like yam, potato, maize and cassava. Okposi has rich alluvial soil which is suitable for yam production. Hence yam has become the major crop planted in Okposi.
1. Yam farming became so highly developed that a piece of land was under cultivation every year. Five months after yams are harvested, the land was cleared for planting the alternative crop – cocoyam. Nowadays, it is cassava that is alternated with yams.
How yam is grown
2. Rice is commonly produced in lowland or swamp lands. Rice output seems to be low relative to resources employed.
The farming inputs are usually gotten from previous harvest hence the farmers of Okposi do not spend much in buying the seed inputs. The labour required for planting are also sourced from within the household hence this helps to reduce the cost.
The rainfall pattern which happens between April and November and peaks between July and September is very suitable for the production of crops
The production of rice is still done manually and efforts are been put by the State Government in introducing mechanization to commercial rice farming in Ebonyi.
How rice is grown
Rice start to be harvest after about 160 days from the when it is planted. Although this may depend on the type of rice planted and the climatic condition at the time. These are the ways to grow rice;
Salt production in Okposi is usually done by the women, who use the proceeds to support their family. The salt is usually gotten form Okposi Salt Lake. According to history, two hunters; Ekwuna Chita and Uta Anoo discovered the salt lake over 400 years ago. Since then, the women have taken to salt production using traditional methods.
The process starts when a woman completes her honeymoon. She is then fetched some brine by her elderly friends in several pots. The brine would be used in making puddle with which the mud part of the Ewe or traditional hut would be built. A mound is then formed in front of the house which serves as a preservation bank for salt crystals.
The woman is then allowed to go fetch some brine from either the Mmahi Ezi, the main Salt Lake or from Enyanwu, the supporting pond.
Economic Importance Of Salt To The Okposi People
Salt was once a high value good in Okposi, Ebonyi state. Salt production was done on seasonal basis due to the flooding that occurs. Buyers would come from other eastern parts and as far as Northern Nigeria to the Odenigbo Okposi, a big market then. Salt enjoyed great patronage in the markets then and continued to be bought even with the advent of the slave trade.
The salt production formed a major industry, becoming a notable occupation in Okposi and was responsible for supplying salt to the entire eastern region during the civil war.