Project Topic- perceived effect of food taboos and superstition on nutritional status of women in Abakaliki Local Government Area
Background of the Study
Food taboo is a prohibition against certain kinds of food in a particular area, violation of which is believed to be punishable automatically by supernatural means (Bende, 2005). Taboos and superstitions believes are among the factors that affect food habit of people. This has an adverse effect on the nutritional status of people (Ofianwani, 2001). Food taboo is the restricting of the consumption of certain items to different groups of people in a society.Food taboos are cultural or religious customs that does not allow people to consume a particular type of food (Ene-Obong, 2001) it is a general agreement not to eat a particular type of food.
A taboo can be defined as a cultural or religious custom that does not allow people to do, use or talk about a particular thing as people find it offensive or embarrassing. It is a general agreement not to do some thing or talk about something (Hornby, 2010). A superstition is the belief that particular events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason of science, the belief that particular events bring good or bad luck (Hornby, 2010) Taboos and superstitions are handed down to people by their fore fathers and ancestors.
Many of these believes are unfounded. According to Scott (2009), there are some beliefs about some certain foods which make some people avoid them. For instance, the taboo connected with eating of eggs by children and pregnant women is almost universal in Africa, perhaps stemming from greed on the part of men. There is also a taboo about eating of the flesh of certain animals such as snail, bat, tortoise, elephants, monkeys, donkeys, etc by mothers, especially pregnant Mother.
Taboos in general are placed on very important foods with valuable nutrients and this has adverse effect on the health and nutrient and this has adverse effect on the health and nutritional status of people in the developing World (Scott, 2009). Important foods are those foods that supply the body with nutrients and prevent malnutrition e.g. fish, vegetables, fruits, sea foods, fibre etc.
Starvation and other nutritional diseases experienced during the Nigerian civil war necessarily stopped many taboos and superstitions connected with food. Most of these prohibited foods are our local food stuffs with high nutritive values. It is quite obvious that our great grand fathers were not educated. They were not civilized in any form. Their innate tendencies could be equated to those of animal instincts.
They had no scientific foundation or backing and do not know about the nutritive value of foods, but they held many unfounding beliefs (Ellis, 2005). Nutritional status is the condition of a healthy individual, as influenced by the utilization of nutrients. Nutritional status of individuals can be assessed in so many ways which include biochemical means, clinical/physical examinations, vial statistics, food intake measurement and anthropometric measurement which can be calculated using the body mass index formular (BMI) (Okeke, 2000) Nutritional status of individuals can be poor or good depending on their nutrient intake.
Malnutrition which is an outcome of poor nutritional status can be inform of under nutrition or over nutrition. Some types of under nutrition are kwashiorkor, marasmus, goiter, rickets, etc while some forms of over-nutrition include diabetes, overweight, obesity, hypervitaminosis A, etc (Njoku, 2005). Food taboos and superstitions can lead to one form of malnutrition or the other. This is so because in malnutrition there is either deprivation of one nutrient or the other, or excessive intake of one nutrient or the other.
In every family, there is always a vulnerable group. Such people are children, the aged, invalid and convalescents, vegetarians, pregnant and lactating mothers, etc. These groups are’ the mostly hit by these taboos and superstitions. The lactating mothers are sharing their nutrient intake with their babies via the breast milk, which means they need extra supply of nutrient in other to meet up with their nutritional needs.
As in the case of most rural communities most women are involved in taboos and superstitions due to forbidden foods in their communities, these and many other reasons is serious affecting the nutritional status of women.
Statement of the Problem
Food taboos and superstitions has been an ugly menace that has affected individuals, families, and the society at large, in no small measure. it has done more harm than good in our lives. The most hit by this ugly menace is the vulnerable group in the family which include the pregnant and lactating mothers. The lactating mothers who are sharing their nutrient intake directly and indirectly with their babies have a great story to tell in respect of these food taboos and superstitions.
These women are not meeting up with their nutrient intake thereby not meeting up with that of their babies. This is an ugly situation which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, because the babies who will be malnourished will end up growing into malnourished adults bearing malnourished children who will also grow up into malnourished adults and the trend continues (Ene-Oborng 2001).
This is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. Based on this backdrop the research through this study tends to deceive means of eradicating food taboos and superstitions especially in the study area (Abakaliki Local Government Area).
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to assess the perceived effect of food taboos and superstitions on nutritional status of women in Abakaliki Local Government Area. Specifically, the study tends to:
1. Ascertain the food taboos and superstitions prevalent in Abakaliki Local Government Area.
2. Find out the causes of these food taboos and superstitions6
3. Assess the influence of these taboos and superstitions on the body mass index of women.
4. Profer solutions to the menace of these food taboos and superstitions.
Significance of the Study
The result of this study will benefit people of Abakaliki local government area because it will correct most of the prejudice they have towards some foods.
It will be of great benefit to families because it will improve their nutritional status, especially that of the vulnerable group.
Government will also benefit because it will establish a means of providing good food for the people so as to correct the problem created by food taboos and superstitions.
The result of this study will act as a baseline for other researchers who may like to work further in this area.
Finally, it will provide a gateway of solving the problem of taboos and superstitious in Nigeria.
Scope of the Study
The study is delimited to the assessment of the perceived effect of food taboos and superstitions on nutritional status of women in Abakaliki Local Government Area. It will ascertain the food taboos and superstitions prevalent in Abakaliki Local Government Area, find out the causes and origin of these food taboos and superstitions determine the influence of these food taboo a superstitions on the body mass index of women and also profer solution to this study menace. The respondents will be mothers or women attending material and child health (MCH) clinic in Abakaliki Local Government Area.
What are the food taboos and superstitions prevalent in Abkaliki Local Government Area?
What are the causes/origin of these food taboos and superstitions?
What are the consequence of these food taboos and superstitions on the body mass index of women in Abakaliki Local Government Area?
What are the solutions to the menace of food taboos and superstitions in Abakaliki Local Government Area?