GODWIN ENNA in this report highlights the plight of “waina” or “masa” vendors and consumers in Katsina State amidst skyrocketing prices of foodstuff
Waina or masa is a Hausa pancake-like food made out of corn or rice enjoyed with a vegetable soup called (miyan taushe) in Hausa or with sweet pepper called (yaji). The meal is one of the north’s most delicious and widely accepted delicacy. Its major ingredient is local rice and just like the famous ‘Tuwo shinkafa’ which is virtually on all dining tables and in all Hausa food joints, this meal is one of the leading varieties of cereal-based foods amongst northerners.
This tasteful meal is mostly prepared by local vendors, mothers, and housewives and it has since been endorsed as a special family delicacy eaten by people of different classes, regardless of age and sex. It is also not uncommon to see children being sent on an errand to buy waina from vendors who are often surrounded by buyers in droves.
Historically traced to local festivals in some communities in Bauchi State, waina is popular with ceremonies and festive periods, where it is served by the celebrants to guests or where it is the main course that is shared in honour of a particular ceremony. Nonetheless, it is still one of the most precious and cherished delicacies valued not only in the north but Nigeria as a whole eaten.
This local dish is consumed differently, sometimes as an appetizer, sometimes as a snack and sometimes as a main meal. It is a very common sight in Katsina metropolis, to see individuals or family members eating this meal as breakfast. They sometimes gather around a dining table or on a common mat to relish the cake cereal.
Many housewives have also perfected the sophistry of preparing waina and that has helped them sway their husband’s hearts on many occasions.
But, residents of Katsina State have raised the alarm over the hike of prices of foodstuff and other ingredients used in preparing “waina” or “masa” as well as the price of the pancake-like food in the state.
This development, according to a LEADERSHIP Weekend survey was attributed to a persistent rise in the price of foodstuff. Also, an investigation by this paper revealed that kidnapping, as well as the activities of bandits that have led to a cut in supplies of foodstuff as farmers remain at home and can’t go to the farm may also be responsible for the rise in the prices of food in the state.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also gathered that an increase of about 75 per cent has so far been recorded in prices of foodstuff in the state as a measure of rice used for making masa which prior to now is sold at rice N800 now cost N1300, also vegetable oil that was sold at N2500, now costs N3500.
“For most people breakfast or partying is never complete or original enough without a taste of waina in this part of the world,” said Mrs Habiba Aminu, a waina vendor who has been in the business for over a decade.
Reacting to the rise of the price of the local delicacy, Aminu said residents in the state and Nigerians have one more thing to worry about which is the soaring cost of commodities.
She lamented that some of her customers can no longer afford to buy waina anymore.
Aminu called on the government to stabilize the economy and improve security so that people can go to the farm.
She said although she was able to make a lot of profit from the business, at the moment sales are reducing and debt is also increasing.
Another waina vendor, whose stand is located at the Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs Office in Katsina State, Lucy Onah, decried the persistent rise in the price of food items. She noted that the price of food items used in preparing the waina had skyrocketed.
“In order to meet up with the challenge, I reduced the size of the waina and then increased the cost. For instance, instead of selling one for N10, I now sell three for N50 and six for N100 instead of 10 pieces.
Noah, who said she has been in the business for over 15 years, said the business had helped her get cash to pay her children’s school fees, and also pay her bills instead of depending on her husband.
She, however, called on the government to assist with some soft loans to expand her business, saying she had never received any assistance from the government in any form.
A lover of waina, Ibrahim Charanchi, said he buys waina on a daily basis. He said for the past 15 years he has been eating waina daily. Charanchi, however, decried the increase in the price of the meal.
“Waina is my favourite meal, especially in the morning breakfast. I will be happy if something is done to reduce the prices of waina and other food items,” he said.
Ramatu Mai Waina is another woman who has embraced the business since her husband’s demise. She said she has been taking care of her three children with the profit she makes from the sale of the product.
Corroborating, Onah’s claims, Ramatu, decried the hike in the prices of foodstuff and other commodities in the market.
According to her, “I used to come out early in the morning to fry and sell waina here because I have no one to run to for help since my husband died and I embraced this business in order to feed my three children. Things are changing at the moment due to upward adjustment in the prices of foodstuff and other commodities in the market.
“When my husband died, he left me with the three kids and his people came that they want to go with them but I refused because I don’t want my children to suffer under the care of someone else, and I resolved into selling waina to feed and cater for my children’s wellbeing.’’
Ramatu further explained that if not for the recent upsurge in prices of food items, the business had been good and easy for her.
“I don’t go anywhere to beg for assistance. I have enough from the sale to meet my demands and that of my children. From this business, I was able to build a house and went to Hajj.”
“The major challenge I have is debt. Most of my customers who are owing me don’t pay back and in turn, affect my business,” she said.
Another waina vendor, Hajiya Talatu Mai Waina said she started the business alone with just a little capital but now employs five women who regularly receive salaries from her.
According to her: “I started this small business a few years back with just half measure of rice but now thank Allah I now use 14 to 15 measures daily. I open shop as early as 7:30 am till evening without a remnant.
‘’The prices of rice and other items are increasing daily and the government needs to act fast to avert the continuous increase in price. Most of my customers can no longer afford waina because of the price increase.
‘’I have five workers working with me, and I pay them promptly. But we don’t make a substantial profit compared to before because of the price of food and other items.
Hajiya Talatu like other vendors also decried the current hardships and economic challenge which affected her business.
She also disclosed that she has never received any support from the government or any individual, but all she does is to maintain and sustain the little capital she started her business with to date.
She, however, urged the government to assist waina vendors with more funds to expand their business.