Things Come Together

History and Heritage of Yam in Nigeria

The past is key to the future.

Honoured, respected and revered, yams (the king of crops) are amongst the most important crops in Nigeria. They are recognised daily and annually in new yam festivals, mythology, and literature. In fact, most traditional Nigerian belief systems see yam as a gift from the gods, sent to nourish, sustain and bless them — the high incidence of twins in the southwest of Nigeria is linked to eating yam.

Yams of Old

Eaten in a variety of ways, yams are available half-year round and are especially celebrated in New Yam festivals which happen across the country, commonly in August. These festivals celebrate harvest, with new yams marking the end of one season and the start of another.

New Yam festivals across the country

In the acclaimed novel, and most widely-read novel in contemporary African literature, Things Fall Apart (1958) by the late Chinua Achebe, the word ‘yam’ appears one hundred times, beacons in a story that sees the falling apart of family, community, and the destruction of culture as colonisation works its way into the heart of Umuofia.

Through it all, yams and other delicious Nigerian foods are present, from the celebrations of the New Yam festival to the end, when the village is forever changed, as a result of British colonisation. This fictional journey was as much warning then as it is now.

The Feast of the New Yam was approaching and Umuofia was in a festival mood. It was an occasion for giving thanks to Ani, the earth goddess and the source of all fertility.

[p.29, Heinemann 2008]

Yams herald new beginnings

Nigeria is the largest producer of yams in the world, contributing about 70%, and is considered to have the most advanced yam culture and civilisation on the planet with 8** popular species from over 600* that exist, and research ongoing on over 3,000 accessions**. Despite this, imported foods have flooded the market, claiming spaces best served with fresh-frozen, nutritious, delicious, locally produced yam.

This is Sympli’s goal — grow the economy sustainably, support Nigerians on the journey towards reclamation and reimagining Nigerian food culture and heritage through our fresh-frozen innovation. Throughout the value chain, our products and projects positively impact our stakeholders, from the farmers, to our employees, customers, and the government. We invest in the agricultural potential of Nigeria, working hard to transform products so they don’t turn to food waste.

One day, we will celebrate a new kind of yam festival, we will Sympli feast on yam, in many forms; yam, in all its glory. Sympli loves Nigeria.


Achebe, C. (1958). Things Fall Apart. Heinemann.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Crops and Livestock products. Yams. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from
Springer Link. Yam. Retrieved April 6, 2022, from