The mystery of the “land of twins,” the city with the highest twin births in Africa

Adeola Adegunwa December 15, 2022
Twins Oladapo Taiwo, left, and Oladapo Kehinde, 21, pose for photographs holding relative’s twins during the annual twins festival in Igbo-Ora South west Nigeria, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. Photo credit: AP/Sunday Alamba

Nearly every family has twins or multiple births in the Nigerian city of Igbo-Ora in the southwestern Oyo State. The city, which has become knows as the “Land of Twins” has the highest rate of twin births in Africa. The exact reason is unknown, but it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

One theory has it that the high twin birth rate in Igbo-Ora is due to the genetic traits of the Yoruba people, who make up the majority of the population in the area. The Yoruba are known to have several rates of twinning, with as many as one in every 22 births resulting in twins or even triplets. This is much higher than the global average of one in every 80 births.

Another theory suggests that this phenomenon is due to the local diet, which is rich in foods that contain hormones that can stimulate ovulation. These hormones, found in foods such as yams and cassava, may increase the likelihood of twin births. However, this has not been proven conclusively and further research is needed to confirm this theory. Pounded-yam is the favourite meal of the people of Ogbo-Ora. 

Even with the exact reason for the high twin birth rate in Igbo-Ora remaining a mystery, the city has become known as the “Twins Capital of the World” and attracts visitors from all over Africa and beyond. The city even has a festival dedicated to twins, called the Igbo Festival, which is held annually to celebrate and honour the twin birth tradition. This year’s event, held in October, included more than 1,000 pairs of twins and drew participants from as far away as France, according to the organizers.

The high twin birth rate in Igbo-Ora has also led to the development of a thriving twin industry, with many local businesses catering specifically to twins and their families. For example, there are tailors who make matching outfits for twins, photographers who specialise in twin photography and even schools that offer specialised education for twins.

Igbo-Ora’s economy has been positively impacted, with many families benefiting financially from the twin industry. In addition, the city has become a popular destination for twin researchers and scientists from around the world, who come to study the phenomenon and learn more about the factors that contribute to the high rate of twin births in the area. Even with these many benefits, there are also challenges associated with having a large number of twins in the city, such as the lack of resources and facilities to adequately support and care for new borns.

The town’s annual festival, organized by Twins World Creations and the Igbo-Ora community foundation, aims to promote the area’s tourism and cultural potential, attract investors, and even earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records. The festival is attended by the Alaafin of Oyo and other notable figures, and has become a major tourist event in Ibarapa land. The festival, which started as the “Naija Twins Festival”, has been repackaged as the “World Twins Festival” to position Oyo State as a top destination for twins tourism.

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