By Omotayo Ayanda
Afon is the headquarters of Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State. Asa LGA comprises several towns and villages which include Ogbondoroko, Afon, Laduba, Aboto, Balah, Eyenkonn, Pampo, Ogele, and Olowokere.
Asa Local Government Area is no doubt covers a total area of 1,286 square kilometers and a population of 126,435 as at the 2006 census. It features two distinct seasons which are the rainy and dry seasons. Asa LGA is known for the cultivation of a wide range of crops such as rice, corn, coconut and vegetables. Cloth weaving and dyeing are other key economic enterprises in the area.
Trade is also popular amongst dwellers of Asa LGA with markets such as the Alapa market and the Ogbondoroko main market attracting thousands of buyers and sellers of various commodities.
Islam and Christianity are the widely practiced religions in Asa LGA while ethnic groups such as the Yoruba, Hausa, and Fulani are represented in the area.
Asa LGA is home to a number of festivals such as the Awon festival and the Egungun festival. It’s major tourist attractions are the Shehu Alimi’s Mosque, the well at Kwo Alapa district, and the cattle dam and grazing reserve at lla-Oja.
Aside the rich culture, the Asa people are reputed to have beautiful landscapes, climate, lifestyle, arts, tourist attractions and some of the most delicious delicacies in the Emirate.
Many people would be shocked to know that Afon people also have Fishing Festival that they celebrated annual. The festival has over the years become a unifier factor in the area as it brings both the old and young together.
Just like Argungun Fishing Festival in Kebbi State, Afon Fishing Festival is an annual community-wide celebration held in the local government from February to March, sometimes extending till April.
The festival attracts participants from Afon and neighboring communities, including both young and old males.
The festival which commences with the clearing of the river and the removal of debris and obstacles attracted spectators from far and wide within the local government and beyond.
Nets are then set up to block off two edges of the designated fishing area, ensuring that the fish do not escape.
Once the river is prepared, the fishing begins. Any fish caught by an individual belongs to them, except for large fish, which are shared among all participants.
Those who are unable to catch fish receive compensation from the catches of others.
Unlike other fishing festivals that are competitive, the Afon Fishing Festival is more of a fun fair and It has become a unifying event not just for the Afon community, but also for neighboring communities.
Like the Argungun festival in Kebbi State, the Kwara State Government can unlock the hidden potentials in this festival as it capables of boosting the state economy.
At this period when the people are advocating for the diversification of the Nigeria economy from mono-economy, the Kwara State Government under the watch of Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq can unlock the hidden potentials in the Afon Fishing Festival just as the Kebbi State Government did to Argungun Fishing Festival.
Tourism is said to be vital for the success of many economies the world over. There are several benefits of tourism on host destinations. Tourism boosts the revenue of the economy, creates thousands of jobs, develops the infrastructures of a country, and plants a sense of cultural exchange between foreigners and citizens.
The number of jobs created by tourism in many different areas is significant. These jobs are not only a part of the tourism sector but also include the agricultural sector, communication sector, health sector, and the educational sector. Many tourists travel to experience the hosting destination’s culture, different traditions, and gastronomy. This is very profitable to local restaurants, shopping centers, stores among others.
Therefore, the present Government in Kwara State should look at a way of harnessing the hidden potentials in Afon Fishing Festival to place the state on world map and boost the state’s economy.