NIGERIA AND HER FIRST LOVE: Kano Groundnut Pyramids

In the early 1900s, before the advent of crude oil,there was boom in Nigeria’s cash crops business.images 6

One of Nigeria’s foremost business men, Alhaji Alhassan Dantata delved into the business at the time and then came the groundnut pyramids. I have always wondered how the groundnut pyramids were built.

Who gave Nigeria’s northern businessmen such idea? If it is not art then it is definitely science these workmen employed.

One after the other, bags of groundnut was placed systematically, according to a particular pattern into a magnificent master piece similar to the pyramids of Egypt.

The breathtaking pyramids were a sight to behold. Whenever it was time to place the last bag of groundnut on the peak of the pyramids, people would leave whatever they were doing to go there and watch how it is done. The pyramids became a sight for tourism beside its basic commercial value.

Groundnut pyramids was one of the leading sight and sound of northern Nigeria, mainly Kano state and some parts of Jigawa state, in the 1960s and 1970s.

Groundnut production was a key part of Nigeria’s economy. They were viewed as both a tourist attraction and a symbol of wealth.

People came from as far as Europe to trade in the agro-business sensation in northern Nigeria, some locals dubbed it the ‘eighth wonder of the world.’

Formal sight-seeing records were not kept then. A recurring problem in Africa, as demographic data of economic application is usually limited or non-existent.

How many people visited Nigeria to look at the pyramids? How much annual revenue did groundnut pyramids generate? We may not tell.

Perhaps the data sit in the dusty shelves of one of Nigeria’s agriculture departments and research Universities, away from policy makers, town planners and administrators, economic and industrial specialists.

Groundnut was not the only cash crops sold in Kano at the time, but it opened the door for other businesses in Kano to thrive. Kano was a major trading outpost and the pride of West Africa in the 1960s.

Groundnut pyramids helped place Kano on the map, a business hub in Africa. People came from across Africa, even as far as Europe to trade in Kano.

Nigerian Royal Company, NRC, a trading company commissioned by the colonial British government bought the groundnuts and shipped them to Europe. It is important to say that they were the biggest buyers of groundnut.

Groundnut pyramids were located close to the railway line.It was only natural to do so, to ease its onward transport to the NRC depot domiciled in Lagos.index 4

However, with the loss of the groundnut pyramids in the late 1970s, came the decline in agro-allied businesses. Farmers were left with little or no means of livelihood, and then the loss of the railway line. Tourists stopped visiting and the legume business came to screeching halt.

So where did the pyramids go? What was responsible for the decline?

It is well documented that in the 1960s and 70s, as production in Nigeria shifted from agriculture to crude oil, the groundnut pyramids disappeared. Then you have the negligence on the part of administrators who piloted the affairs of the northern economy?

Well whatever it was, just like the nursery rhyme, ‘when you realize you’ve hit the bottom there is only one way to go, and that’s up. The ink wink spider can climb the wall again.

There is a growing need to rebuild, and restore the hope of a continent.

A new thinking is rising in Africa, ‘that is rebuilding a prosperous, free, and peaceful society under God.’

With the new railway line, Lagos – Kano route, Nigeria can dream again. The groundnut value chain project has its merits. Recently, the Nigerian government has made efforts to revive the groundnut industry and rebuild the pyramids.

And the surge in demand in the global market has led to a rise in groundnut value chain products like ‘groundnut oil prices.’

Global demand is for more than 50.4 million tonnes of groundnut annually.

Through  joint ventures with leading food processing companies, Nigeria can establish groundnut mills with a combine crushing capacity of 100 to 250 tonnes daily. This will in turn revive the groundnut production business, as farmers will have ready industrial mills to sell their goods.

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