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Confined Field Trial Of Transgenic Cassava Is Completely Safe, Says IITA Scientist

The Confined Field Trial (CFT) currently being carried out on transgenic cassava at an IITA site has been described as “completely safe with absolutely no risk of contamination to local cassava varieties.” Dr Anna Carluccio, a scientist on the research team at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said this in an interview in which she also noted that there is no cover of secrecy surrounding this research on transgenic cassava.

Last year, IITA’s application to carry out the CFT on genetically modified cassava in collaboration with ETH Plant Biotechnology Lab in Zurich was approved by the National Biosafety Management Agency. This research is a response to one of Africa’s biggest agricultural challenges, namely the high level of postharvest loss of cassava caused by rapid deterioration of its starch-rich roots, which occurs naturally and begins immediately after harvest. This causes a 40% reduction in the postharvest value of cassava and therefore has a huge negative impact on the income of farmers.

Tackling this challenge will have a tangible effect of increasing cassava yields, which will in turn positively impact food security and transform the socioeconomic status of cassava farmers.

The main purpose of this research is to support cassava productivity by breeding for robustly high-yielding plants, as this strategy is the most economically viable for smallholder farmers. “Compared to other crop plants, however, little is known about cassava source-to-sink relations, which are major determinants of final crop yield,” said Carluccio. The purpose of the research therefore, is to raise the level of understanding of cassava physiology to a level comparable with other major crop plants.

At an earlier stage of this research, genetically modified cassava plants were generated to evaluate the activity of the enzyme which hinders the process of rapid deterioration of cassava roots shortly after harvest. Such cassava lines will be able to store their starch in stable forms even long after the tubers have been harvest. The gene construct used was developed at ETH Zurich in the laboratory of Prof Samuel C. Zeeman and extensive testing was carried out in greenhouses in Switzerland over a three-year period.

According to Carluccio, “The aim of this confined field trial is to evaluate the effect of a reduced α-amylase activity in the storage roots of the transgenic cassava under a local field condition in Nigeria to confirm results obtained in greenhouses at the ETH lab in Zurich.”

The necessity of carrying out the CFT was explained by Prof Samuel C. Zeema who said, “Our greenhouse experiments were an important first step, but they cannot substitute for genuine field conditions. Hence, it is necessary to grow the plants in a tropical climate such as that of Nigeria.”
“IITA is an excellently equipped and well-staffed institute at which to perform such a confined field trial,” he added.

Carluccio reiterated IITA’s readiness to carry out this trial amidst the highest biosafety standards which include the protection of test plants with anti-aphid mesh to prevent insect entry and guard against cross pollination. Furthermore, flower buds from the cassava plants are removed weekly in addition to the removal of any male or female flowers, which will be carried out during the entire duration of the experiment, to prevent pollen dispersal.

The CFT site permits access to only authorized personnel and a minimum isolation distance of 100 meters is maintained between it and any plants capable of hybridizing with cassava. The site also has an incinerator that is used to safely burn waste from the site, including packaging and periodically uprooted volunteer plants.

Confined Field Trial Of Transgenic Cassava Is Completely Safe, Says IITA Scientist
Confined Field Trial Of Transgenic Cassava Is Completely Safe, Says IITA Scientist

When asked about the timeline for expected adoption of this transgenic cassava variety, Carluccio stressed that there is no plan to adopt this variety as the experiment is purely a scientific experiment to know what happens in the plants after harvesting. “We hope to understand which protein is involved in starch degradation and this result could help us to select plants with these characteristics,” she said.

Though this experimental cassava variety is not planned for commercial release, it is destined to transform lives. As Carluccio notes, “I know that smallholder farmers have this big problem and if we can reduce the rate of starch degradation, even if by only two days, farmers’ income would increase.”

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How To Tackle Seasonal Fluctuation, Price Of Pepper

Most Nigerian homes, especially in the Southwest region, who consume good quantity of pepper, may have to endure the current high price of the commodity in the market.

For now, according to The Guardian survey, scarcity is the factor contributing to the current price increase.

The fact that pepper is a major spice used in foods makes it an essential commodity across the country. There is hardly a complete meal without use of at least one variety of pepper.

Pepper, according to study, has several usages. It is used as spice in many dishes and as decoration in food, to add flavour and colour. It is also used to provide relief for several ailments. It can be found in topical creams that are intended to reduce muscle pain, inflammation and itching.

Shambo Pepper
Shambo Pepper

It acts as a heart stimulant, which regulates blood flow and strengthens the arteries, possibly reducing heart attacks. It has soothing effects on the digestive system, offers relief from symptoms of colds, sore throats and fevers, circulation, especially for cold hands and feet, and as a hangover remedy.

Fresh peppers, as gathered are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin. It can be used to regulate blood sugar. Experts claim hot chilly peppers might help fight prostate cancer.

Though it comes in different varieties, but the ones commonly produced in Nigeria include: Bird peppers-Atawere, a very hot variety of pepper, it is short in length. Both ripe and unripe of this variety are used for preparing sauce; Cayenne or red pepper—Sombo, a very long and thin variety. It is a bit mild as regards to its hotness.

Capsicum annum-Atarodo, it is the most common variety in the market. The smaller sized type taste hotter than the bigger size; and Capsicum annum-Tatase, usually very mild in taste and very red in colour.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statistics, it estimated world production of capsicum peppers in 2001 to be 21.3 million tonnes, from a harvested area of 1.6 million hectares (ha) (average yield 13.4 t/ha); with China emerging as the largest producer with 10 million tonnes, followed by Mexico-1.9 million tonnes and Turkey-1.5 million tonnes.

Production in tropical Africa is estimated at one million tonnes, with Nigeria producing 715,000 tonnes from 90,000 ha and Ghana producing 270,000 tonnes from 75,000 ha, as the largest producers.

A farmer, James Ogah told The Guardian that domestic demand for pepper has increased over time, as decline in production persists, which has resulted in perennial scarcity.

He noted that the development has drastically affected exportation of quantity of pepper being exported, as the country continues to lose foreign exchange that should have accrued from the pepper value-chain. “This signifies that there is need for increase in the supply of pepper to make up for the increase in the domestic demand and to also give room for export.”

The Guardian learnt that rising domestic demand, coupled with drop in export, continues to set the trend for the pepper market. Currently, the main suppliers of the commodity to the global market are Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Brazil; while the major destinations are the US, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Investigations show that the price of pepper in Nigeria is subjected to seasonal fluctuation. For instance, in the Southwest, pepper is brought in from the North, despite the fact that it is also grown in the Southwest, but by few farmers.

The insurgency in parts of the north, which displaced farmers, coupled with climate change and cost of transportation also add to rising cost of pepper.

Ogah hinted that despite the country’s pepper production level, the huge demand gap has forced the country to rely on importation to fill the gap.

A pepper seller, Abubakar Duru, confirmed the price increase. He said though they still maintain the least price of N50 for the smallest module of pepper, they have been forced to reduce the quantity, in order not to run at a loss.

Though he attested to the fact that scarcity due to displacement of farmers in the north, coupled with cost of transportation, is reason for the price increase, he however, said pests and diseases are also affecting pepper cultivation.

It was learnt that pests like Scales and mealy bugs; Coratitis capitata; and Borers are still ravaging farms, while diseases like Bacterial wilt; Fruit rot; and Virus, are responsible for stunted growth, which invariably lead to poor harvest.

Duru advocates government support to farmers in the area of sensitisation, input and financial support to enhance cultivation of the commodity in every part of the country, so that the issue of seasonal fluctuation can be permanently addressed.

But another farmer, Jelili Ahmed opposed Duru’s position, noting that pepper cannot just be cultivated on any soil like cassava, yam, maize and other crops that can thrive, irrespective of soil types.

He said pepper has soil requirements, which must be strictly adhered to if the farmer is willing to make any gain from the plantation. He said pepper thrives well in warm climate and requires well-drained silt or clay soil and favourable climatic condition.

Ahmed said planting on water logged and alkaline soil must also be avoided, adding that pepper grows well on highly nutritive soil with optimum soil moisture.

How To Tackle Seasonal Fluctuation, Price Of Pepper
How To Tackle Seasonal Fluctuation, Price Of Pepper

One other area he mentioned, which he said farmers are yet to find solution, is the area of storage. He said pepper lasts for only few days after harvest before it gets rotten and with this, “We only get half or quarter of what we harvest. That is the reason why most farmers are abandoning pepper farming for other profitable crops.”

 

Ogah said the country has the capacity to almost double present pepper output, saying there is no need to increase the acreage. “We can use the same area we are planting, with improved technology so that we can double the yield per unit area.

“If we double the production, for me, the perennial price fluctuation will be eradicated, as there will be enough to meet local demand on one hand, and to gain in export markets.

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El-Rufai Tasks Investors On Kaduna’s Agric Opportunities

El-Rufai Tasks Investors On Kaduna Agric Opportunities: Kaduna State Governor, Mallam El-Rufai has called on prospective investors to explore the state’s numerous opportunities to improve the state’s vibrant economy.

He stated this during the commissioning of the Ramindra Tractor Assembly Plant, Industrial Estate, Kaduna, a joint investment of the Springfield Agro Ltd., aimed at consolidating the over 14 years of partnership, to boost the country’s economy, more importantly, in the mechanised agricultural sector.

While saluting the company’s efforts in the state, he enjoined them and other prospective investors not to relent in such regard; but to firmly believe in their genuine intentions to partner the state’s for the realisation of their agelong dreams.

El-Rufai expressed the state appreciation to the Kewalram Chanrai Group for the confidence reposed in the nation’s economy, especially, the Kaduna State government with its numerous huge investments, especially the Sunseep Feed Mills, the Kewalram Chanrai Foundation Hospital all in Zaria, as well as other laudable programmes freely executed to cushion the suffering of the teeming masses and efforts in food production.

The state’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Dr. Manzo Maigari and the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Abdulkadir Kassim, extolled the conglomerate’s sterling virtues, assuring of the state’s cooperation to provide continued improved food production at pocket friendly price. He also promised joint cooperation to adequately subsidise such farm inputs, to further enhance, improved mechanised agricultural production.

In his welcome address, the Springfield Agro Ltd CEO, Mr. Tarun K. Das, expressed profound gratitude to the state with the additional investment of more than $200m, to provide over 200 jobs to the residents when the Mahindra Tractor Assembly Plant is fully in operation.

Kaduna Agog as Maiden Agriculture, Agro-allied and Technology Exhibition Kick-start

The much awaited Opening ceremony of the maiden edition of the ECOWAS Agriculture, Agro-allied and Technology Exhibition taking place here in Kaduna State, Northern Nigeria kicks-off on a good note.

The event which was earlier scheduled for Friday, October 7 th, 2016, was shifted till today due to logistical issues. In a chat with agrobusinesngr.com, one of the director, local organizing committee, Mr Osamen, disclosed, the move was to ensure a seamless experience for participants at the event proper.

In attendance, representing the Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, is Mr Aderemi o. Abioye, also representing the First Lady Aishat Buhari is Hajiyah Maimuna, while the State Governor Mallam Nasir El- Rufai was duly represented by Dr. Mamzo Maigari, the Honourable commissioner for Agriculture in Kaduna State.

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Experts Harp On Nutritional Value Of Soya Beans

Nutritional Value Soya Beans: Experts have described soya bean as one of the most consumed legumes in the world, due to its essential nutrients that maintain and improves human health.

Soya bean is revered as a good meal source for people who are on diet. Its protein content enhances metabolic functions in the body and thus helps to improve human health, ensuring that human cells are well repaired. It also helps with weight reduction and protects people from diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

According to Mr. Monjanrin Sunday, RSM (Edible South West), Grand Cereals, Soya bean also contains vitamins like; vitamin c, vitamin k, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B6 and thiamin. Potassium, calcium, copper, phosphorous, manganese, selenium and zinc, which are some of the other minerals that can be derived from it.

“Regular intake of soya beans helps in the prevention of cancer due to its high level of antioxidants. Its protein content makes it a choice meal that spreads around various markets across Nigeria.

Nutritional Value Soya Beans: Experts Harp On Nutritional Value Of Soya Beans
Nutritional Value Soya Beans: Experts Harp On Nutritional Value Of Soya Beans

“Its high vitamin and mineral content ensures healthy bones even during old age. Another benefit of soya beans is its effectiveness in aiding the functioning of the heart by lowering the total cholesterol level in the body thus preventing heart attack or stroke. With its fibre content, soya beans also helps in boosting digestion and aids metabolism. Soya bean seed can be used in making different foods; including soy milk, textured vegetable protein and soya bean oil,” he said.

Sunday, said since oil is a staple ingredient for the preparation of meals, it is advisable to cook with oil made from soya bean for the prevention of heart disease and for low cholesterol intake

CAVA II Identifies Inconsistency In Raw Materials As Bane Of Cassava Production

The Country Manager of Cassava Adding Value for Africa II (CAVA II) (Nigeria), Prof. Later Sanni has identified inconsistency in the supply of raw materials as a major and critical point for the survival of large-scale industries in the country.

CAVA II Identifies Inconsistency In Raw Materials As Bane Of Cassava Production Sanni, who stated this during the facilitation and communication skills training programme for Development Programmes (ADPs) extension officers and procurement staff of large-scale cassava producers, said sourcing for raw materials of between 250 and 450 tonnes of cassava required quite a lot of work.

“We are aware that you have different locations where you source for raw materials but at present, there are some issues we have itemised in the last two years-right quality, right quantity and right time of supply – which should be urgently addressed.

“The major problem is that the farmers themselves have informed us that some of the extension officers or procurement officers are delaying their payments, which is attitudinal and that’s why we felt its better we bring in a consultant that will interact with you on facilitation, communication and sustainable engagement,” he said.

In his welcome address, the Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Professor Felix Salako said the nation should move away from its over-dependence on oil resources and embrace agriculture, as a sustainable route to national development.

“We are having new generation of extension officers. All of you sitting here are young, seeing your faces; I think we are meeting new generation of extension officers. And I hope you are really going to be the catalyst that would push the nation forward in terms of using agriculture as an alternative to crude oil export. It is dawning on everybody now – whether we like it or not – we are running into trouble with oil. Reviving The Cocoa Industry In Nigeria

What may even make oil to be useless is the fact that people are already thinking of alternative sources of energy, even for running cars? The training could not have come at a better time than now.

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Stakeholders Express Concern Over Increasing Loss Of Forest Land To Agriculture

As the Federal Government continues the campaign for more Nigerians to embrace agriculture, stakeholders are however concerned over the alarming loss of forest land to agricultural purposes.

This comes against the backdrop of a recent forest inventory report taken in Cross River State that revealed a whooping 167,382 hectares of forest land was lost to agriculture between 2007 and 2014, and over 23,911 hectares lost to other purposes.

Specifically, they are worried that in Cross River, degradation of the forest is increasing at an average of 5,071 hectares lost annually repressing 0.67 per cent.

These formed part of the findings at a high level sensitisation workshop on, National Forest Inventory, organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in Abuja.

A Community Engagement Specialist for the UN REDD+ programme, Martins Egot, in a paper presentation on, the Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation (Cross River State experience), pointed out that agriculture is a major driver of forest loss in Nigeria.

Stakeholders Express Concern Over Increasing Loss Of Forest Land To Agriculture
Stakeholders Express Concern Over Increasing Loss Of Forest Land To Agriculture

He identified other drivers to include forestry like timber exploitation, logging, infrastructure development – construction of roads, mining, and quarrying, adding that the locals also exploit the forest for fuel wood and charcoal.

The Forestry expert noted that the forest is the major source of livelihood of most rural communities, and their food, water, and economy is dependent on it, unfortunately, most of them are into farming, and this in turn leads to loss of forest land.

The lead consultant for the UN REDD+ programme, Tony Attah, who also expressed worry over the massive forest degradation, stressed the need for regeneration, saying, in as much as many hectares of land have been lost to agriculture, government should embark on regeneration to reclaim the forest.

He also identified the importance of taking stock of the forest to include climate change effect, erosion control, lamenting that Nigeria is losing the forest more than it can control, and forest inventory would help take holistic steps to ensure sustainability.

Attah said: “We need to have an inventory of our forest in all the states so that it would be well managed and be protected from indiscriminate degradation.”

He argued that forest degradation affect the natural water source, and food system, as the land would loses its fertility and also result in erosion problem. “The impact of the forest cannot be ruled out because man survival is dependent on the forest,” he added.

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Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon

Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: The conflicts between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria have grown, spread and intensified over the past decade and today pose a threat to national survival.

So many people have been killed, communities have been destroyed and so thousands of farmers and pastoralists have lost their lives and property in an extended act of killings and destruction. The ungodly act is not only continuously destroying livelihoods but is also affecting national unity.

The deadly attacks have scared farmers away from their farms. So many farms have been abandoned as a result of fear of being killed and raped because most of these farmers are women. It was reported that most women were being raped, molested and killed by herdsmen during attacks.

Therefore, stakeholders in the agricultural space have expressed worries over the incessant killing of farmers by herdsmen in the agrarian states, which they say, may lead to food scarcity very soon if no drastic action is taken to resolve the crisis.

Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon
Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon

Already, some states in the northern part of the country are facing hunger as a result of activities of herdsmen/Boko Haram who dislodged farmers from their farmlands. Experts opined that the conflicts will not only lead to hunger but will have economic implications on the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In 2017, some graduate commercial farmers at Oke Ako-Ipao axis of Ekiti State protested the alleged destruction of crops worth N35 million by suspected herdsmen grazing their cattle in their farm. They lamented that herdsmen operating in the Oke Ako-Ipao axis, had destroyed their maize plantation covering over 30 hectares of land and cassava planted on an expansive land of over 20 hectares.

The rate at which the herdsmen committing these crimes have increased exponentially and the crimes are thwarting the country’s economic development to an enormous extent. Farms are destroyed, crops lost and the incentive to plant anew dwindles with each attack. Yet, the Federal Government is not really addressing the economic implications of the widespread conflicts.

Daily Sun learnt that the ongoing conflict between farmers and herdsmen across the North-Central is costing Nigeria at least $14 billion in potential revenues annually.

Daily Sun investigation revealed that the average household affected by conflict today could see income increase by at least 67 per cent and potentially 220 per cent or higher, if conflicts were resolved.

Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon
Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon

Already, states like Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba, Bauchi and Kaduna experience 40 per cent decrease in grains production. Over 35 per cent of grains’ local farmers abandoned their farms for herdsmen in the region, death rate increased in Benue, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kaduna with 27 per cent.

Benue State seems to be the hardest hit in recent times. In January, 73 people were killed during the violent attacks on Logo and Guma in Benue State on January 1, 2018, which the Federal Government proposed cattle colony as a way to end incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen. But stakeholders have kicked against the proposal, saying only ranches can resolve the issues.

The 73 victims of the attacks were interred in a mass burial in a village near Makurdi, the state capital. In April, within a space of three days, no fewer than 24 persons were allegedly killed by suspected herdsmen in different communities in Benue State.
Apparently, it is high time the Federal Government reviewed all the recommendations, suggestions and solutions being proffered by stakeholders and international communities to resolve the conflicts.

Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon
Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon

Speaking with Daily Sun, President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association Nigeria (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama, said for Nigeria to experience food shortage soon is a statement of fact if the activities herdsmen are not curtailed.
Iyama said there was no way Nigeria won’t experience food scarcity because people who ought to farm and produce food are running away from the farms, adding, “why should you be in your farm and you will be looking left, right and centre. That is the case but I strongly believe things have to be done better. With the way they are going, I am one of those who don’t believe these people are herdsmen and that is the way I see it. Some of our farms have been attacked but in my opinion, I will not call them herdsmen. They are just a group of bandits with some ulterior motives using cow as false cover and that is the way I see it.

In order to avert food scarcity, there is need to mount security everywhere so that farmers can farm without fear of molestation, fear of being raped, fear of being killed. By the time our women get scared to go to farm, there is a problem because majority of those in the farms are women even if men own the farms. So when it gets to a stage where women cannot go to farm, I expect that extra security should be provided. But I hope it doesn’t get to that stage.”

The Deputy Managing Director of Peniel Gerar International Limited, Ojiefoh Enahoro Martins, said that factors projected to increase high cost of food by 2019 include Fulani herdsmen activities, increase in farmers’ death, outbreak of pests and diseases, shortage and uneven distribution of rain fall, artificial migration, low turnout of investors in the sector due to activities of Fulani herdsmen and epileptic and unfruitful government policies.
He hinted that some major crops that will be source of food scarcity in the country include cassava, sesame seeds, soybeans, yam, maize, tomatoes, pepper and onions.

Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon
Herdsmen/Farmers Clash: Nigeria May Suffer Food Scarcity Soon (Herdsmen/Farmers Clash)

According to him, the price of imported rice would go up while the price of local rice would crash. He added that price of tomato and onions would increase with 40 per cent while price of local maize is expected to go up by 38 per cent.

Speaking on the way forward, he urged the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, to abolish open grazing by herdsmen while putting in place an alternative mode of grazing to stop the crisis.
He said the Minister should introduce communal farming system alongside farm settlements to encourage local farmers and reduce tension.

The Peniel Gerar International Limited boss said as matter of urgency, the Federal Government, through the Agric Minister, should revisit and revamp some silos and encourage storage while stakeholders must mobilise local farmers and encourage cooperative structure. He added that with farm settlement and communal farming system, security is sure.

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Nigeria Loses N29billion To Five Livestock Diseases

A veterinary doctor with Ambuvets Konsult Limited, Dr. Shehu Shamsudeen has lamented that livestock diseases burden remains the topmost constrained in the development of livestock sector in Africa; saying findings have shown that Nigeria loses over N29.2 billion to five priority livestock diseases of recent.

The five priority livestock diseases according to him include: Peste Des Petites Ruminants (PPR), African Swine Fever (ASF), Newcastle Disease (NCD), Contagious Bovine Pleuropnuemonia (CBPP) and Trypanosomiasis.

According to him, the worldwide studies estimates the average losses to more than 20percent annually with estimated worth of $2billion. He further mentioned that a joint world bank and ILRI projects in Nigeria in 2010 puts estimated annual lose due to the five priority livestock diseases to over N29.2billion.

READ MORE: Youth In Agribusiness President Buhari And Opportunities In Nigeria

Speaking during an interaction with newsmen in Kaduna, Shamsudeen said that the impacts of the diseases were likely to be proportionally greater for the poor livestock farmer.

Nigeria Loses N29billion To Five Livestock Diseases
Nigeria Loses N29billion To Five Livestock Diseases

For a country like Nigeria, to lose such amount of money to animal diseases annually is disturbing.

While explaining the direct loss, he said over 50percent in Newcastle disease in chickens up to 80percent in small ruminants, which leads to decreased productivity including decreased quantity and quality of eggs, decreased milk yield, increased calf mortality, poor growth rate and increased calf mortality among others.

He, however, commended the role of Nigerian veterinary professionals in tackling some of the livestock diseases in the country; saying they have been developing improved animal diseases diagnosis, breeding techniques and disease intervention strategies

Earlier, the National President of the Veterinary Association of Nigeria, Professor Garba Sharubutu, lamented the neglect suffered by veterinary profession in Nigeria; which, he said, was the reason why most of the practitioner focused to private practice.

Traders Move To Fight Calcium Carbide Usage On Fruits

Following Daily Trust’s investigation on the massive use of calcium carbide to ripen fruits by farmers and fruits sellers nationwide, the Nigerian Fruits Sellers Association says it has taken steps to check the menace across fruits markets in the country.

Daily Trust visited the biggest fruits market in Zuba (one of the markets at the centre of the investigation) at the outskirts of Abuja from where most fruits are supplied to Abuja city to find out if the traders are still engaged in the act.

The union officials explained a number of measures they have taken to forestall the application of calcium carbide – a substance said to be carcinogenic and causes other terminal illnesses – to forcefully ripen fruits.

Shefiu M. Yahaya is the chairman, Fruits Sellers Association Zuba Fruits Market branch. He said the investigation by Daily Trust on the use of carbide to ripen fruits and the attendant consequences of consuming such fruits was an eye opener for them.

He stressed that until they saw the report, most of them didn’t know that it has serious consequences on the health of consumers, adding that if they had known they would not have allowed it because they too would be affected.

Traders Move To Fight Calcium Carbide Usage On Fruits
Traders Move To Fight Calcium Carbide Usage On Fruits (Calcium Carbide)

Alhaji Yahaya stated that since they saw the report, a number of measures were adopted to address the situation in Abuja markets.

According to him, carbide sellers, who until now were selling round the fruits market have been asked to leave. Daily Trust can confirm that some of the places where the products were initially sold during the investigation are now empty.

Besides asking carbide sellers in the markets to leave, the union has now proscribed the use of carbide by members and a taskforce has been set up to check erring members.

Yahaya said any member found guilty will be sent packing from the market and handed over to the law enforcement agencies for prosecution stressing that they will not allow anything that will jeopardise the health of Nigerians.

On his part, Alhaji Tijjani Y. Keffi, the secretary of the Zuba Fruits Sellers Association said he met with all the leaders of the various sections of the market so as to ensure that their message on the prohibition of the use of carbide is followed to the letter.

This, he said, was to restore sanity and ensure that no one broke the rule as whoever did would be sent out of the market and handed over to security agencies for prosecution.

Alhaji Tijjani said to ensure full compliance every truck load of fruits into the market was properly inspected by the taskforce before being allowed into the market, adding that so far members are cooperating to ensure sustainability of the market and their business.

At the national level, there are ongoing sensitization campaigns at the major fruits markets in the country by the national leaders to halt the use of carbide.

Husseini Mohammed Dankarami who is the Assistant National Secretary of the Nigerian Fruits Sellers

Association said immediately after reading the Daily Trust story, the national leaders swung into action and sent circulars to all their branches instructing members to ensure that no vehicles with carbide ripened fruits was allowed into any of the markets.

But Mr Dankarami expressed concern that they have little control over those who connived with some farmers to supply the fruit directly to them at home but stressed that a joint taskforce comprising teams from the health ministry, security agencies and NAFDAC will help track such dealers.

Also speaking, Abubakar Daura, the national public relations officer of the association reiterated that the investigative story was a wakeup call to them to sanitize the business, adding that they have so far traveled to Jos, Bauchi, Kaduna with Kano and Lagos in the pipeline to ensure compliance with the directive against carbide use on fruits.

He said the current tempo will be sustained nationwide to track defaulters and punish them accordingly.

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FG trains 28 Ex-militants In Fish Processing

A total of 28 ex-militants have been trained in fish processing and production by the Presidential Amnesty Programme, the coordinator of the programme, Mrs Oyintarela Umeri, has said.

Umeri said the Federal Government is determined to ensure that the ex-agitators are re-integrated fully into society.

She noted that the programme, which was held at Aquatech College of Agriculture and Technology in Ibadan, was part of the promises of the present administration to support the people of the Niger Delta in various sectors of economy.

According to her, about 30,000 young men and women had responded to the Presidential Amnesty declaration initiated by late President Umar Yar’Adua for the Niger Delta area in an attempt to restore peace to the region.

Cooperation Among Fish Farmers
Cooperation Among Fish Farmers

Umeri further revealed that out of the over 17,000 ex-militants trained in universities across the globe in various vocational skills, over 4,000 have been empowered through businesses set up in a variety of trade areas.

Umeri said: “President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration encourages agriculture, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta decided to empower them in that line, so that they could have sustainable businesses which will in turn integrate them back into their community on a permanent basis and also contribute economically to their immediate family and the country in general.”

Speaking on funding, Umeri said “participants will be offered starter packs which would include land acquisition, marketing tools, fish processing tools, equipment and other features substantial enough to enable them start their small businesses on a sound note.”

How Neem Bio-pesticide Can Tackle Deadly Tomato Disease’

Mr Sani Bello, owner of Neem Agro Nigeria Limited, has been working on neem for more than 15 years. An electrical engineer by training, Bello in this interview, shares with us the benefits and prospects of neem production.

Tell us briefly what you do at Neem Agro Nigeria Limited?

I was able to formulate a lot of things from neem though, initially I was just expelling the seeds to get oil and cake. But after the success in extraction, I decided to add value to oil to get bio pesticides and some cosmetics like neem herbal soap. Then from the cake I was able to formulate organo-mineral fertiliser post-harvest storage powder for storing grains against pest attacks.

Are you an agrarian by training or you picked interest at a later stage?

I picked interest, my training was electrical engineering

I’m an entrepreneur by interest so I bought my first machine with the intention of extracting groundnut oil and suddenly in 2003, we were invited to the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT) in Zaria for a workshop on neem processing and from there I converted my machine to neem oil extraction.

This even attracted me an award, local content award by Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).

What is the capacity of production of your company presently?

Actually, we are still at the lower scale because, you know neem processing is a new field in Nigeria and we don’t have the capacity to propagate it and market it the way we should but we are trying our best. Neem oil is going everywhere now and even the pesticide, small scale farmers are using it.

There are a lot of neem pesticides, and there are a lot of ways to use it. Most people don’t even know how to use neem pesticide and the formulation. If you formulate neem pesticide and keep it on the shelf, it loses value after some time, so what we do is that we give you a kit consisting of neem oil and emulsifier to use on the farm. You prepare it on your farm and spray within eight hours of preparation or even less.

But the timing of spraying matters a lot. I work with a research institute, NARICT, and there, we are working in collaboration. And I remember some time in 2015 when the issue of Tuta absoluta first surfaced in Nigeria, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) sponsored some people to India and learn how to do bio-pesticides from neem. But by that time I’ve already done my research because I also worked with some Indian companies. I still work with the first Indian that introduced neem business in Nigeria.

When the Tuta absoluta pest first struck, I had started discussing with Dangote Tomato in Kano, I called the MD and discussed with him but he hasn’t reached back to me. Additionally, I even discussed with the Minister of Science and Technology regarding this issue.

I also wrote an introduction letter to the Kaduna state Government but before then they had sent some people to Kenya to learn how to tackle the same problem from a consultant. When they came back, the same consultant called me, collected my samples and went for a meeting with the Kaduna State Government and I’ve not heard anything from them.

I personally discussed with the past Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Kabir Mato, who is now the Commissioner of Local Government Affairs in Kaduna State and nothing came up.

How effective is the neem bio-pesticide against ‘Tuta absoluta’ disease?

It is very effective, it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. The Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria has carried out that research; though they didn’t use neem oil but neem cake and other neem extracts. But in India, it has been in use for over 20 years. It has been proven to be very effective against ‘Tuta absoluta’, American worm and so many things.

READ MORE: Edo Calls For Maize, Cassava, Rice Offtakers

The most critical thing that people don’t put into consideration is the time of use, because it is not like chemical pesticide. Neem on its own is ultra violet sensitive, so if you use it when there is sun rays it would not work for you.

When is the best time for application of the bio-pesticide?

The best time to use it is before sunrise and after sunset. And the concentration is, if you’re using one litre of water, between 10ml and 15ml of neem oil in addition to 10ml of emulsifier and you spray all over the plants.

There are a lot of active ingredients in neem, but the major one is Azadirachtin, the smell of the neem also repels pests. In neem there are a lot of properties that expel pests.

Could you shed more light on the usage of neem storage powder?

For every 100kg bag of cowpea, 250g of the powder should be divided into three parts; one part should be sprinkled at the bottom, another part in the middle and the last part should be sprinkled at the top.

It has been very effective; we have the results that have been analysed by IAR and it took them about a year to analyse as it passed through stages.

How about the organo-mineral fertiliser?

Yes, that is also been used in the country and there are a lot of us doing it, we have an association. It is an organic fertiliser but has advantages like;- it conditions the soil, it repels pests, and improves both the quality of the soil and the grains.

How profitable would you say neem processing is and what are the opportunities in the sector?

There are a lot of prospects and opportunities in this business, the only thing is that government needs to encourage more entrepreneurs otherwise nothing would come out of it.

Right now, we have registration with many agric cooperatives and associations that are ready to work with us, like the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), and we are working to see the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) on how they can slot us in on the Anchor Borrowers Programme.

There are a lot of prospects. Actually you know agric is the new thing in the country right now, so anything agric you are doing will definitely go a long way.

We started with oil extraction and then graduated to formulation of neem soap. So when we do a product, after sometime, we graduate to another product and some products are still in the development stage.

Are youths showing interest in this business and have you been offering training to them?

Mr Sani Bello, owner of Neem Agro Nigeria Limited
Mr Sani Bello, owner of Neem Agro Nigeria Limited

Last year we attempted to train people on food processing of organically grown foods. We are aware that foods that are grown organically are more expensive and healthier than conventionally produced foods, even outside the country.

We attempted to train people on how to do organic farming using organic methods of revitalising the soil, organic pesticide application and so many things like that unfortunately we couldn’t achieve that for one reason or the other.

The basic challenge we have is in the area of making fertiliser because we need pulveriser, granulators, dryers and mixers to produce standard fertiliser.

I want to appeal to government to patronise us, when we have patronage from government certainly we would grow bigger.

 

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Emir Urges National Assembly To Pass Right To Food Bill

The Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samai’la Muhammad Mera, has urged the National Assembly to pass the Right to Food Bill without further delay.

The traditional ruler made the plea while receiving the coalition of civil society groups promoting the right of every Nigerian to Food.

The Emir while responding to a presentation on the Right to Food Bill by the Chairman of Voices for Food Security (VFS), Prof. Gbolagade Ayoola, expressed surprise that Nigeria is yet to have food as a fundamental human right enshrined in the constitution.

Prof. Ayoola who is also the President of Farm and Infrastructure Foundation (FIF) earlier told the Emir that, the latest World Hunger Index published by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) indicates that as at last year (2017), with an index value of 25.5 Nigeria ranked 84th among 119 countries in the category of “Serious Hunger Prevalence”.

“This implies that about three quarter of its population (about 150 million people) presently suffers from acute adult malnutrition, child stunting, child wasting and child mortality, all linked to food insecurity of the country,” Ayoola said in a statement made available to Daily Trust.

According to him, the fact that the universality of the subject matter also exists in the number of countries of the world that have adopted the concept of food as a right or passed a right to food Bill as the basis for implementing food policies.

Emir Urges National Assembly To Pass Right To Food Bill
L-R: Ropo Egbeleke of Tree Initiative, Chairman of Voices for Food Security (VFS), Prof. Gbolagade Ayoola, Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samai”la Muhammad Mera and ‘Sola Kolawole of Tree Initiative during an advocacy visit to the Argungu Emirate on the Right to Food in Nigeria.

He said it was due to the need for a suitable legal environment for right to food to take a firm root in Nigeria, that the bill was introduced at the National Assembly as far as 2010 during the 6th Assembly.

He said, “The Bill, which has suffered a great setback during the Sixth Assembly (2007-2011), and also suffered a similar fate during the Seventh Assembly (2011-2015), is now at the Committee stage during this present Eighth Assembly (2015-2019), having passed the Second Reading at the Federal House of Representatives and the First Reading at the Senate as at June 2016.”

The Emir appreciated the right to food bill campaign coalition for the efforts at pushing the bill under such discouraging condition since its introduction.

He referred to the right to food bill campaign as a patriotic endeavour which is strategic to the growth of the agricultural sector and the survival of this nation. He noted that the bill will take care of almost 80 percent of the concerns surrounding food security.

He also assured the coalition of his unflinching support for the bill and his readiness to reach out to all critical stakeholders within his sphere of influence to mobilize support for the passage of the right to food bill by the 8th National Assembly without delay.

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Invest In Soya Beans Value Chain To Gain Financial Freedom

Soya beans farming is another agribusiness that has the potential to make you fantastically rich.

Soya bean or in the US parlance, soybean is a leguminous crop that originated from eastern Asia where it is an essential part of their diets, but was said to have been introduced to Ibadan, Nigeria in 1908.

Nigeria has since risen to be the largest producer of the crop in sub-Saharan Africa.

Soybean grows well in many states of the federation. It grows very well in states such as Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Niger, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kwara, Abuja, Bauchi and Borno. It has also been found to do well in the South East, South South and South West regions of the country.

soya beans farming
soya beans farming

However, most of the soybeans producers in Nigeria are smallholder farmers. But in countries like South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, soya beans farming are cultivated on a large scale and in commercial quantity as well. They are also grown in other parts of the world especially in South and North Americas. The US accounts for 32 percent of world total production, Brazil 31 percent and Argentina 18 percent.

Soya bean is a very important global crop because of its chemical composition of over 36 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamins and mineral salts.

It plays important role in fighting malnutrition, especially protein deficiency Africa where animal protein is hard to come by poor masses. Of all crops that are sources of protein, soybeans are the only one that provide cheap and high quality protein comparable to that of meat, poultry and eggs. Soya beans still have a number of other beneficial health effects such as prevention of breast and prostate cancers.

Uses (Soya Beans Farming)

Dry soya beans are used to produce flour and milk substitutes. The bean curds are fried and eaten as snacks or breakfast. Soybean meal is very important because it is fat-free, and a cheap source of protein to both humans and animals.

Soybean products are essential ingredients in meat and dairy products. They also contain significant dietary minerals and vitamins necessary for healthy living. Vegetable oil extracted from soya beans are used in industrial applications. It consists of 20 percent oil and so very useful in producing edible oil.

Varieties (Soya Beans Farming)

Soya bean is a crop with long domestication from wild species to modern variety and so has many cultivars. Each region has a particular species and used for a particular purpose. For instance, perennial soya bean which originated from Africa is widely used as pasture crops. Meanwhile, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture has developed high-yielding, rust-resistant, soil deficiency tolerant varieties.

One can seek expert advice in this regard. Soya bean crop bears a hairy pod that grows in clusters of between three and five with each pod containing two to four seeds.

The seeds have variety of sizes and colours such as brown, black, blue, green and yellow. The mature bean is hard and water-resistant. It protects the cotyledon from damage.

Cultivation (Soya Beans Farming)

Select soya beans seeds suitable to the climatic condition in your locality. If you are in the Northern region, go for variety that has short duration for maturity.

READ MORE: How To Set Up Soymilk Mini Factory

Clear the land and employ farm hands if you are not privileged to use tractor for planting. You can raise beds for your planting or you make ridges. Select good seeds for your planting. Note that seeds with cracks will not germinate.

Ensure that you weed at the appropriate time to get maximum yield. Apply fertilizer where necessary. Part of the problems of soya beans farming in this clime is low yields due to shortage of fertilizer. But, with the accelerated attention being given to agriculture now in the country, farming input such as fertilizer may soon be overcome.

Another problem that the IITA has addressed is high cost of cultivation and harvesting occasioned by manual labour. It has adapted some farming techniques and processing machines to reduce the drudgery involved in farming.

Consumption

Soya beans are eaten whole. The bean curd can be fried and eaten as a snack or breakfast food. Dry soybeans are used to produce milk substitutes and flour.

Nigeria is equally the largest consumer of soya beans in Sub-Sahara Africa followed by Uganda. Reports have it that worldwide consumption of soybean is nearly 11 million tons.

Disease and Pests

Many diseases attack soybeans. They are rust caused by fungus and attacks and destroys the plant leaves. Others are red leaf blotch, frog-eye leaf spot, bacterial pustule, bacterial blight and soybean mosaic virus. For pests, there are pod and foliage feeders, bean flies and nematodes.

The IITA has also developed species resistant to all these diseases and how best to tackle the pests. Make inquiries.

Harvesting

Soybean crop matures and can be harvested between 100 and 150 after planting, depending however, on the variety. Before harvesting, ensure that you have ready market for the produce. A little market research will aid you in your produce distribution and to determine where you will get good price for your produce.

Processing

Soybeans contain some toxic compounds that require prolonged soaking and cooking. However, in the western world, they are processed into a number of products such as soymilk, soy flour, soy sauce and soybean oil.

Apart from farming, you can invest in producing soymilk, soy flour or soybean oil. I bet you, it is a win-win situation for all of them. So go ahead and not only employ yourself but also others. The sky is your limit.

Profitability

The demand for soybeans has greatly increased because of the rapid growth in the poultry industry and therefore created a demand-supply gap that has to be filled by imports. Determined people can larch on this to go into commercial soybeans farming to fill the gap and make a lot of money for themselves.

Besides, one can go a step further and think big by expanding the farm to produce more for export to earn dollars and pounds sterling. Or you go into processing as discussed earlier. Join the pioneers of this revolution to export agro-allied products to diversify this import-dependent economy. Right on, you will succeed!

 

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