The Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterrunea), or voandzu as it is known in Togo, is a legume rich in methionine, an amino acid essential for the human body. A special variety, with large black, dark red or brown beans is cultivated in the north of Togo, especially in the regions of Saeakawa, Tchitchawa, Ketao and Awandjelo.
The local Kabyè people have long cultivated voandzu, and use it to make the famous kakantèyou galette, a favorite food of travelers. The voandzou’s pods grow underground, like peanuts, and are 5 to 15 mm long. The voandzu is still a subsistence pulse in Togo, but the areas cultivated are small and limited to plots surrounding homes. The voandzou is also cultivated in rotation or in association with other cereals (millet or sorghum), or to mark the limits of the peanuts fields. The voandzou is sowed in May, and after four months it can be harvested. The harvest technique is similar to that used for peanuts.
Annual production is estimated at 3 tons. It is grown for home consumption and is sold in limited quantities in Togo for relatively high prices. However, many farmers are switching from planting voandzou to crops that are more profitable and in demand on the local market. The increasing rarity of the bean means that those who make the traditional kakantéyou voandzou galettes are beginning to make the cakes instead with other bean crops that have a different taste and aroma than voandzou.
Image: © Marco del Comune & Oliver Migliore