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1.1       Background of the Study

Nigeria as a nation is endowed with both natural and material resources that can be harnessed to aid economic transformation of the country by providing revenue and foreign exchange. Tourism plays significant roles in economic. Tourism contributes towards alleviating the major political, social and economic problems that characterize the rural areas. Tourism has been discovered to be a very important instrument to poverty alleviation, attainment of the millennium development goals (MDGs) and sustainable development (Olorunfemi and Raheem, 2008; Olajide and Nwogu, 2012).This study wants to talk about the role of Igbo cultural Yam festival to the tourism development in Imo State.

Festivals are exclusively human activities which are celebrated communally. They involve meticulously planned programs programs, rejoicing, outpouring of respects or high revelry, established by custom or sponsored by various organizations or groups. As a term, festivals have been defined by different sources. For instance, D.Getz (2010) saw the term as the celebration of town values, ideologies, identity and continuity. He also went as far as defining festival as a day or period set aside for celebration or feasting especially one of religious significance; any occasion for celebration especially on which commemorates an anniversary or other significant event, an organized series of special events and performances usually in one place and time or revelry.

The Igbo New yam festival is annually celebrated in Imo state. The festival is usually celebrated after the Owu festive season in mid-august. Indigenously, it is known as “emumu iri nji ohuru”. According to Kelechi Ubaku (2009), the new yam festival marks the beginning of the first harvest and eating of new yam. The yam festival is being held to thank God for giving the people a bumper harvest every year. The celebration starts from August to September depending on different towns, time-table on traditional calendar. New Yam festival is one of the richly cultural festivals that are celebrated throughout Igboland (Imo inclusive). Ukachukwu (2007) pointed out that though a simple ceremony, it is very much respected. The new yam festival is purely a community affair and it also falls under cultural tourism. It is a festival by the people, and for the people. Given all these facts, it is obvious that new yam festival is a communal affair owned and managed by the people and rich in different cultural exhibitions.

1.2        Statement of the Problem

Nigerian Cultures and Cultural practices came under the corrosive influences of modernization during the colonial period and the subsequent postcolonial era. This situation has made a lot of scholars to assume that there is an absence of any thread of continuity between works (both performing and visual arts) created during the pre-colonial era and those produced by the present generation. The New yam festival is still very much in existence and could be revitalized by reinventing them as modern festivals. This could in no little measure enhance tourism and economic gains of the people. There is currently no data on the social and economic impact of the new yam festival in Imo state and the lack of awareness of the festival by the rest of the country and the world at large are all problems this research looks to address thereby drawing the attention of the government which means more investment hence making the festival bigger and better.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to investigate the role of Igbo cultural new yam festival to the tourism development of Imo state. However, the objectives of this study are:

        i.            To find out the history of the new yam festival and how its celebrated among the Igbo people of Nigeria.

      ii.            To find out the socio-economic impact of the new yam festival.

    iii.            To identify the challenges facing the yam festival and its effect to tourism development.

1.4       Significance of the Study

This study is significant because it brings to fore the impact or significance of new yam festival and how its beneficial to the people of Imo state through the creation of jobs and other social and economic boost like social cohesion, youth empowerment, community engagement, talent development, tourism spend, taxable revenues and inward investment, generating revenue from airports, hotels, restaurants, car and taxi rental companies, craft vendors and other businesses.

Secondly, this study projects a resilience of Igbo culture and tradition in the midst of eroding Western influences. It was equally observable that some performances and innovations witnessed during Igbo new yam festival holds up a lot of promise for tourism, economic gain, social commentary through satire and the eccentricities of public lives.

1.5       Scope of the Study

This study looks at the configuration of the Igbo cultural new yam festival, its rich history, how its celebrated, and the socio-economic impact or significance it tends to represent. In delineating these, issues like the challenges facing the new yam festival and its effect to tourism development were also talked about.

1.6       Research Questions

To achieve the above stated objectives, the following research questions were perused;

           i.            What is the new yam festival, its history and how it is celebrated in Igboland?

         ii.            What are the socio-economic impact or significance of the Igbo cultural new yam festival?

       iii.            What are the challenges facing the yam festival?

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