Is it possible to sell Fura da nono, a milky drink and survive with it? Our correspondents, NANNA SENKUR and ROSE OWOTA ADAH tell the story on how Fulani women are taking care of their needs from the proceeds of the product.
Are they primitive? No, they are not. Are they unhygienic? Far from it. They are decorously, tidily and traditionally dressed Fulani women engage in selling Fura da nono, which serves as food and milk to the end users. As traders, it is expected that they have a particular place or market - in their area of operation where they sell this product that is very rich in protein, but this cannot be said of Fulani women commonly found in many cities and villages, especially in the northern part of the country. They move from one place to another to reach their customers
Although in Nigeria the act of trading is not restricted to any tribe, but many tribes are quite synonymous to trading different kinds of goods, ranging from clothing to food items, thereby going by the saying, “Jack of all trade but masters of none.” But those that have remained reliable right from time immemorial in their sale of product are the Fulani women and their popular fura de nuhu; and in their little way, they have contributed enormously to the local economy of the country
But, despite this, in terms of contributing to the economy of our nation, beholding the picture most people usually create about these Fulani women is that of primitive, unhygienic and unclean persons. This is perhaps, based on the supposition that the Fulanis nomads have no permanent dwelling; they move from one part of the country to the other in search of pastures for their cows and other animals, as a means of livelihood. While it is true that most of their men travel from one interior part of the country to another-in search of greener pastures to feed their cattle, the women remain at home where some of them sell pasteurised milk, popularly called Fura da nono.
Investigations show that they derive pleasure and fulfilment in doing this trade daily, especially when they are not short of customers. Fura da nono is a popular and favourite drink among Nigerians, especially the Hausa and Fulani speaking people - wherever you find them in any part of the country.
But, how do they prepare this milky drink? Everybody has tradition and beliefs, which are held in high esteem. The Fulani are not left out. Perhaps, one of the most striking traditions of the Fulanis is that, the older women always speak for the younger women. Hajiya Salamatu Adamu, the oldest amongst some Fulani women found in Wuse Market in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja explains how it is processed and the difficulties they face in the business of selling the product and her revelation on how they sell Fura da nono, in calabashes and small plastic buckets, which can barely contain enough water for an adult, as a means of earning a living, was quite striking.
“Every morning we wake up by 3 am to milk cows. After milking the cows, using calabash, it is boiled, separated from the oil and then keep it to get cold. Fura is made from millet; we usually pound it in a mortar and put it on fire to cook. After cooking, it is pounded again until soft”, Hajiya Salamatu explained.
“We then make it into golf- size balls; it is used as a thickener, which is why the drink is usually called Fura da nono. Apart from serving as a thickener, fura also gives the drink a good flavour.”
Explaining further, Hajiya said there are two categories of fura: the one that comes in a powdery form, which is sand-like, called Danbu. It is actually eaten by Hausa person; but because it goes very well with Nono, they borrowed the tradition of making Fura from it. Once the Nono, which is left to cool, is ready, they take the prepared fura to the market, only to repeat the same process the next day.
For Salamatu, the sale of Nono has been able to meet their needs. “We are surviving with it; but one of our greatest challenges is the process of selling it. Every day we come and stay under the sun, while other traders are in this market enjoying the comfort of their shades or shops”, she explained while speaking with LEADERSHIP in Wuse Market, Abuja.
Salamatu, who spoke through interpreter said that irrespective of the constant high prices of other goods in the market, it is imagined how they have been able to meet their needs and been able to hold on to the tradition of selling Nono, despite the fact that they are in contact with a society where foreign life style is becoming very pounced.
Asked whether they made any effort to obtain their own stalls or shop in the past, she said, “We have a forum called Maita ya alha, based in Adamawa, that have advocated for us in the past, but it has not yielded any fruit.”
“We still come back here every day under the scorching sun, which affects us negatively because, some costumers are not willing to stand under the sun while we prepare the drink for them, since it sometimes that take a while to do.
“As for the sale of Nono meeting our needs, we are contented. We have being able to send some of our children to school from this business. Three out of my 10 children were able to go to school, but in terms of housing, we live in places without electricity and water.”
Lamenting further on the issue of accommodation, Salamatu said, “The Fulanis are like explorers in this country. Each time we discover a place for settlement the government comes and takes it over. While it is true that our men travel a lot, we the women don’t. We are left at our various homes to look after the children and take care of the home but, we have nothing to hold onto. No market, no school, no accommodation.”
Although not much have being done to meet their live style of travelling, Hajiya Salamatu commended the effort of one governor in the country who has taken them into consideration. “I must commend the governor of Kaduna State who has built schools and houses for the fulanis and I think other states should do likewise.”
On the other hand, she further voiced her grievance over the poor attention given to them by government: “Nobody is concerned about us here. Look at the market situation for example we have no shop to market our products. The only space given to us is under this dried leafless tree, where we have to sit with the sun heating up our skins and you can only imagine what we go through in the rains; obviously no market!”
Research has shown that there is no exception to areas the Fulani and their products have contributed to the nation’s economy. From the provision of beef to the cheese extracted from cows, popularly called Mai shanu, which is used in the home and in the beauty industries-processed and used as different forms of cream as well as fat, it all success story on the way.
It is also used in the health sectors, where the oil is used to keep the body warm and even the Fura da nono, which serves as sources of protein to our body. Yet the Fulani women feel left out in what the society has to offer them.
“Some of our children are in the bush, no school to attend. We are here under the sun, while other people and women who are not Fulani are enjoying the comfort of their shops. We return home to discomfort without light and water”, the spokes person for the Fulani women in the Wuse Market added.
“What we call home is nothing to write home about. People come from all places to patronise us, even right from Aso Villa, but they are not interested in our predicament. We are humans, for God’s sake.”
In her plea to the government she said that even as they are contented with their means of livelihood, they would be happier if they are treated well by the people and the government.
“I am appealing that schools, accommodation and a comfortable marketplace be provided for us so that we will also feel like normal human beings,” she pleaded.