Bello signs agric policy document

Niger State Governor Sani Bello has signed the state Agricultural Policy Document to improve the agricultural development.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Idris Usman made this known at the meeting of the agricultural core delivery team in Minna.

Usman said  for the past seven years, the Ministry of Agriculture has not had any policy document to direct its activities.

“With the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) support, we have been able to develop the state agricultural policy and investment plan which has just been signed by the governor.

Source: The Nation

Oxfam seeks more investment in agriculture

Oxfam Nigeria has asked the Federal Government  to scale up its investment in agriculture to ensure food security.

It said the COVID-19 period has created a better opportunity for the government to re-access its level of preparedness in the sector.

The organisation called on the government to create women centred specific intervention programs that can enhance the productivity of women since they are the major farmers in the country.

Country Director of Oxfam Nigeria, Constant Tchona said this at the World Food Day in Abuja.

The Country Director, who was represented by Olumide Ojo said: “We want to join our voices together as development partners to demand that government scales up its investment in agriculture, it is very important. We have had many treaties and commitment, the Malabo, Maputo declaration to the Abuja declaration that stipulates a minimum of 10 per cent budgetary allocation, if you can do this, it is to the benefit of the whole nation and not just for government.

“We recognise that the majority of the farmers in Nigeria are smallholders and predominantly women. From our works all over the country, we realise that a lot of challenges are hindering their full and optimal performance in the sector, so we will be glad to see some women centred specific intervention programs that can enhance the productivity of these population in agriculture.

“Lastly, I want to call on the Senate that we have the right to food bill that we have been pushing as Oxfam since 2010/2011.’’

We believe that access to food should be a right of every Nigerian and I think that it is now time, I think that COVID-19 actually brought us a better opportunity to re-access our preparedness. I think that the bill has scaled the first and second reading but we don’t know the situation of the bill for now.

“I want to pledge on behalf of my country director, the commitment of Oxfam international in Nigeria to provide technical support and otherwise to the Ministry of Agriculture, to rural women farmers in Nigeria and the generality of Nigerians.”

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alh. Muhammad Nanono who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu said, “Much has been achieved in the agricultural sector, first is in cassava and yam production with 59.4m tons and 7.9m tons, we also ranks 14 in maize production with 10.43 metric tons and 4th in palm oil with 7.7m metric tons in the same year. In 2019, Nigeria became the largest producers of rice in Africa, with a production level of 9m metric tons. These are indeed a true testimony of our commitment to boosting agriculture and providing nutritious food.”

Source: The Nation

Women should engage in Agro-business for healthy living Okey-Onyema

Eberechukwu Okey-Onyema is the Executive Director, Healthy Living and Women Empowerment Initiative (HELWEI), a non-governmental organisation, and member, Steering Committee, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria. Recently, the body organised a two-day capacity building workshop in agro-technology, financial management and marketing for women in Egbe and Idimu in Lagos State. She told PAUL ADUNWOKE that women need to engage in farming to enable them feed their families and live healthy.

Why do you focus on farming and not any other field?
We set out to promote good health through nutrition, and you cannot talk about nutrition without mentioning agriculture. So, we train them because we know the role agriculture plays in overall health. If people do not have enough food to eat, they will be malnourished.

In Nigeria today, there are over 37 per cent of malnourished Nigerian children that have stunted growth. So, we train women on agriculture to enable them have good productivity, so as to have good health. When women are healthy and have good life, they will be able to support their families. As they say, he who trains a woman, trains a community. This project will give women the capacity to send their children to good schools and make good decisions about their health.

What was the purpose of the workshop?
As an NGO, we are committed to improving lives of children and women, promoting their general health and wellbeing through nutrition and positive lifestyle, advocacy and research. We work in different communities and in the course of our duty, we discovered that there are lots of knowledge gaps in activities most women engage themselves, such as farming. So, we work to bridge this gap, as well as gender gap and promote women and girls’ rights.

We are collaborating with Women’s Rights and Health Project in Lagos State. Currently, we are working with women in 12 local council development areas (LCDAs) in Lagos State to improve their lives and ensure that gender violence is reduced. The project will run for about three years.

We trained the women in Egbe and Idimu in such agro-business as fishery, poultry and livestock, among others. We add basic financial management because we understand the relationship between establishing a business and how to manage it. Many of the women were not into agro-business before. So, we support them from zero level and ensure that they grow to enable them take care of their families. The idea is to encourage them to acquire optimal knowledge of the business, as well as have exposure in the marketing of their products. This way, they will be able to find fulfillment through actualizing their dreams.

We also want them to have knowledge of food processing and not just being able to feed themselves and their families. This is to encourage them to go into exporting, as there are lots of potential in farming in Nigeria. We brought facilitators with rich knowledge in agro-business to enlighten them.

How can women maintain healthy lifestyle through agro-business?
One of the women told me she went into farming because during the COVID-19 lockdown, she could not feed her family. But she has a neighbour, who is into planting and selling of Ugu leaves (fluted pumpkin) and makes money from it and is able to feed her family. So, the neighbour introduced her into the agro-business and she started feeding her own family too.

You know that Ugu is nutritious. So, by the time you eat this vegetable, you have already provided your body with the needed vitamins to enable it function well. This is aside the monetary aspect. Women need to prioritise their health, so the training is not all about making money, but also taking care of their health.

At this period of COVID-19, there is need to boost the immunity, but the individual cannot do this without eating the right food. So, it is important that women cultivate a healthy lifestyle by eating good, nutritious food, which comprises a blend of all classes of food.

For instance, it is common knowledge that eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits is very important to good health. So also is eating the right quantity of food at the right time, especially at this period.

Women undertake a lot of responsibilities in the family: they cook, go to farm, go to the market and attend to their husbands and children’s needs. So, they need to be in good health.

Women should not allow COVID-19 to affect their families’ wellbeing. Rather, they should go into farming to cultivate at least ugu leaves and such others to properly feed their families. Women also need to engage in physical exercise and rest well. Sanitation of environment and personal hygiene is very important to win the war against COVID-19. Aside training, we also have disbursement programme to support women with micro credits to improve their agro-business and empower them optimally.

What plans do you have for women post COVID-19?
Post COVID-19 is not going to be business as usual. We are going to have ethical farming, which means that even small spaces can be used for farming. So for instance, when vegetables are expensive in the market, the individual can pluck some from his or her farm and the food will be thus enriched.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, there were claims that relief materials did not get to women and children at the grassroots. Funds were said to have been diverted, which were meant for feeding citizens during the lockdown. Government needs to do more in terms of improving the lives of women and children. A lot of children are malnourished, which is being worsened by the increase in prices of goods. This is unbearable and something should be done urgently.

Source: The Guardian

Water Resources Bill will boost irrigation farming system– Minister

Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources, says the passage of Water Resources Bill will boost irrigation farming system and enhance food security in the country.

Adamu made this known when he appeared at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.

He said that the bill would enhance both domestic and non-domestic use for irrigation, navigation, agricultural and fishery purposes as well as generation of hydro-electric energy.

He said that the Federal Government has 130,000 hectares of formal irrigation infrastructure, adding that the ministry was initiating a project with World Bank on the irrigation system.

He said that the project was tagged: Transforming Irrigation Management in Nigeria project (TRIMING), adding that the project was not only about rehabilitating the infrastructure but revolutionising irrigation management.

“When I came into office, more than 70,000 hectares can be used during the dry season, and about 60,000 hectares are not being used during the dry season.

“This is because there was no maintenance, the canals are blocked and therefore we have come into a new concept we are working now with the World Bank on the Nigerian TRIMING project.

“This project will enhance the farmers in various areas as well as boosting food production in the country,’’ he said.

Adamu said that the fundamental thing about Water Resources Bill already in the National Assembly was that it would empower irrigation farmers in the country.

He said that the bill was also providing opportunities to farmers to initiate Water Users Associations as such would help them manage and maintain the infrastructures for the irrigation system.

“The bill will provide for farmers to be allowed to form water user associations so that they can collect part of this money that they are supposed to be paying for water, put it in the pool and be using it to manage the infrastructure themselves, again is another empowerment on our irrigation farmers.

“So, therefore, the idea will bring about empowerment on our irrigation farmers that way, there will be more efficiency in the irrigation system.

“This means that farmers will no longer be waiting for the Federal Government to rehabilitate the system for them because they are already being empowered,’’ he said,

Adamu said that the TRIMING project was part of the government`s commitment in enhancing food security.

According to him, the project will help to take the farmers away from a manual production system of farming.

“It is time we put in place all our investment to make sure that irrigation infrastructure is working effectively.

“We cannot as a country of 200 million people continue to rely on rainfall agricultural system. We need to be producing enough food that is one of the reasons we are looking into the irrigation system as it will boost our agriculture as well as our economy,’’ he said.

The minister said that the ministry had developed a new Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Action Plan adding, that it was launched by the president in 2018.

He said that WASH was designed to promote hygiene practices to help various communities realise and achieve greater health benefits and improving sanitation and hygiene across the country.

“We have been doing studies on our water supply sector and we realised that in 1992, 30 one per cent of the Nigeria population was enjoying pipe-borne water but as at 2015, it dropped to seven per cent.

“So we have to do something, we decided to work with our development partners and within a year we developed a new WASH Action Plan, which the president launched on Nov. 8, 2018 and declared a state of emergency on WASH sector.

“We all know that water and light are the basic ingredients of life, some states have not been investing enough in water supply sector maybe because they don’t realise that water is dynamic and the population is strongly growing.

“If you want to be supplying adequate water, you have to move more two steps ahead of the population.

“So before the population get to two million, you must have an adequate water supply of 12 or 13 million and by the time the population is getting to 13 million, you are already getting the facilities that will serve about 20 million people.

“I think that is the best way to enhance water supply and the facilities, but there is a lot of breaks down in certain states that today, the existing scheme that have been there for the past 30 years are the only schemes that are still existing.

“The schemes are not even being managed well and they are operated in optimum capacities because the equipment are not being replaced or maintained and that is why the systems are not working.

“So when we analyse all these challenges, we decided to have a WASH farm and through the farm, states can now draw money from it to add to their budgetary allocations so that they can invest more in water and sanitation sector.

“In that effect, we now introduced this WASH farm 2020 edition of water resources bill.

“In that, we involve all the states and various relevant stakeholders in the WASH action plan, we decided that the country must have a WASH farm as that will help the states government to be more effective in the sector,’’ he said.

Adamu, however, advised all the states government and other relevant stakeholders to support in promoting the sector to enable it to achieve global practices in water resource management in the country.

Source: The Guardian

FG, BOA train 100 women in agriculture

The Federal Government has trained 100  women on the use of Information and Communication Technology in agriculture development.

The National Centre for Women Development, a parastatal of the Federal Ministry Ministry of Women Affairs, said the empowerment with support from the Bank of Agriculture, was to enable them adopt efficient farming techniques and boost quality food production.

The Director-General of NCWD, Mary Ekpere-Eta, during the event held in Abuja in commemoration of the World Food Day, said the women were drawn from various Local Government Aeas in the 36 states of the country.

According to her, the empowerment in ICT was to ensure that Nigeria attained the Social Development Goal Five which is gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls through ICT.

The NCWD DG said 70 per cent of the country’s population which comprises women and youths, needed to harness the power of ICT so that they could participate in the programme and benefit from the information revolution taking place across the country.

She said, “One hundred female farmers from different LGAs in the country were assembled for this intensive training after a thorough screening process.

“They have been made aware of ICT techniques that can be leveraged for business development, access to finance, marketing and networking strategies, personal security, access to modern agricultural practices among others.

“It is common knowledge that the SDG-5 is aimed at achieving gender equality to empower all women and girls through the use of ICT.

“As a result, participants were introduced to the global spatial database of land use, food prices, flooding in Nigeria and many other applications, as well as resources online, through which they can gather vital and timely information as farmers and make informed decisions on what to produce, when to produce and where to sell their products at a competitive price.”

The Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, encouraged beneficiaries of the training to make the best use of the knowledge impacted on them.


Grooming cassava entrepreneurs

THE cassava industry is growing tremendously. This follows increasing usage  and processing into various products.

Processed cassava is used in some industries, some of which include food, ethanol, paper and cardboard, textiles, pharmaceutical, glues and adhesives.

According to Cassava Processing Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2019-2024 report, published by Research and, the  food industry accounts for around a half of the total global cassava consumption followed by feed industry.

Region-wise, the report said  Nigeria is the world’s leading producer of cassava accounting for around a fifth of the world’s cassava production followed by Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana, and Congo.

Organisations are encouraging more Nigerians to go into cassava farming and processing. One of such organisations is HarvestPlus Nigeria. The Country Manager, HarvestPlus Nigeria, Dr. Paul Ilona, said farmers could make more money from the sale of cassava stem, if properly cultivated and harnessed.

He said cassava stem business in Nigeria was estimated at over N20 billion yearly.

According to Ilona, since the country cultivates an average of seven million hectares of cassava, there is still room for expansion to end the importation of cassava and its byproducts.

“In Nigeria, a hectare of cassava farm requires a bundle of 60 cassava stems to cultivate and when multiplied by seven million hectares of cassava farm annually, that gives us 420 million bundles.

“A bundle of 60 stems of one meter-long each sells at N500. Since we plant seven million hectares for cassava annually, in monetary terms, 420 million bundles multiplied by N500, which translates to N20 billion annually.

“The cassava sector is a very profitable sector, from the stem, to the tuber and to the processed food, even to those who distribute the products.

“Farmers will make more revenue from the casava stem if properly cultivated and harnessed,” Ilona said.

He said that some investors had become major aggregators in the cassava seed sector (stem) and urged more farmers to look into it to enhance their revenue.  HarvestPlus is not alone in the campaign.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is also involved.

Under a programme, Building and Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS), the organisation has demonstrated that the cassava seeds system could be profitable for the players involved across the value chain.

The Project Director, Hemant Nitturkar, said BASICS has been changing Nigeria’s cassava seed sector and creating seed entrepreneurs for the past decade.

“In past five years, BASICS has created a viable and sustainable cassava seed system in Nigeria, opening a vista of opportunities for seed entrepreneurs and cassava farmers looking for new and improved varieties for cultivation,” he said.

Nitturkar said the project was able to link breeders and researchers, who developed improved cassava varieties and technologies; with farmers and processors who benefited from high-quality planting materials.

According to him, the BASICS project has created over 150 community-based seed entrepreneurs, who are running viable cassava stem businesses in states like Benue, Cross River, Abia and Imo.

He said it had also facilitated the establishment of two seed companies, namely IITA GoSeed located on the IITA campus in Ibadan and Umudike Seed at National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Umudike, Abia.  Last week, BASICS-II enlisted 45 farmers in Kogi State as cassava seed entrepreneurs (CSEs). The CSEs were drawn from across the state after a thorough screening process by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the BASICS-II partner leading the development of CSEs in Nigeria. The plan is to help Kogi State boost its seed demand for cassava production, create a new stream of business opportunities, improve the livelihoods of farmers and contribute to the overall food security in the country.

The coming on board of the new cassava seed entrepreneurs is expected to drive the adoption and marketing of the recently branded six released varieties and four yet-to be-released varieties. The released varieties and their new names are as follows: IBA961632 (Farmer’s Pride), IBA980581 (Dixon), CR36-5 (Ayaya), IBA070593 (Sunshine), IBA980505 (Fine face) and TME 419. The yet-to-be-released (pre-release) varieties and their new names are TMS13F1160P0004 (Game Changer), TMS13F1343P0022 (Obasanjo-2), NR130124 (Hope) and TMEB693 (Poundable). Under good agronomic practices, these varieties yield more than 20 tonnes per hectare (ha) as opposed to the current national average of nine tonnes per ha.

Kogi State Commissioner for Agriculture, David Apeh, said the development of cassava seeds system in Kogi state was a welcome development for the transformation of the state’s cassava sector.

“It all starts with the seeds. When you start with bad stems, you end with bad results. Therefore, we appreciate IITA, BASICS-II, and CRS for bringing this project to Kogi State,” Mr Apeh, who was represented by the Director of Agricultural Services, Mr Okolo Ichalla, said.

BASICS-II Project Leader, Prof Lateef Sanni,  re-echoed the importance of developing the cassava seed sector to catalyse the diffusion of improved varieties in Nigeria.

He noted that there was a huge opportunity in the cassava seed sector for farmers to utilise and transform their livelihoods, adding: “BASICS-II was willing to backstop farmers towards developing a sustainable cassava seed sector in Nigeria.”


Why Nigeria must bridge infrastructural gaps to aid food production

As Nigeria makes efforts to ensure that agriculture plays a key role in its quest for revenue diversification, stakeholders in the sector have charged the Federal Government to bridge infrastructural gaps to aid agribusiness development in the country and ensure food security.

Indubitably, some of the greatest problems confronting rural farmers and communities in Nigeria are the absence of critical infrastructures such as motorable roads, storage facilities, and irrigation facilities among others.

Farmers continue to suffer low levels of agricultural productivity due to infrastructural deficit across the country, which reduces their profit and impact on their capacity to increase productivity.

The provision of critical infrastructure is a pre-requisite for enabling Nigeria to stimulate economic growth and to reach the targets for economic diversification and food security.

Obiora Madu, former chairman, export group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said that Nigeria does not have an effective agricultural infrastructure, stating that the country’s export drive can only be successful with adequate infrastructural facilities such as storage, good road networks amongst others, stressing that the lack of it has made the cost of food production higher.

“The costs of logistics are also very high. It is cheaper to transport a commodity to Europe than to transport the same commodity within the country,” Madu said.

After a few days of heavy rainfalls, most farming areas and markets become impassable and this has continued to impact negatively on the prices of food items across the country.

Samson Akwah, organising secretary-yam section, Mile 12 market said that the cost of transporting yam tubers using a Mercedes Bens truck (911) from the middle belt region to Lagos has increased from N350, 000 to N700, 000 due to the bad state of road infrastructures.

Despite Nigeria ranks top in the production of some crops, the infrastructures needed to store the excesses are lacking.

According to Abiodun Olorundenro, manager, Aqua Shoots, the problem with Nigeria agriculture is infrastructure, stating that the country is growing enough to feed its people but most of what is grown often rots in the field because it is difficult to move them easily from the farms and the facilities to store them are lacking.

“We can only feed ourselves when the infrastructures needed to boost productivity across the value chain are there. We can even move our foods from the farm to the market easily,” Olorundenro said.

He stated that developing agriculture is very critical in the country’s efforts to diversify, which he said can only be achieved when heavy investments are made in infrastructures.

Investments in the country’s primary agricultural infrastructures will help integrate poorer sections of the population into a sustainable process of economic growth and development, experts say.

In turn, this will reduce poverty by providing jobs, directly and indirectly, that will serve as a stimulus to the economy and the agricultural sector.

Nigeria’s population is fast rising and it’s growing at an annual rate of 3.1 percent, therefore the need to bridge infrastructural gaps is necessary for food security and economic growth.


65,000 Nigerian farmers to benefit from N9bn MasterCard intervention

65,000 smallholder farmers in Nigeria are to directly benefit from quality land, seeds, fertilizers, mechanization, and storage over the next two years, as part of a new program to achieve sustainable recovery and build resilience from the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched by the Mastercard Foundation, the program focuses on building food security and increasing digital and financial inclusion within the most vulnerable farming communities.

The program, which is aimed at helping the country reverse the pandemic’s impacts on food security and bolster it even further, will support more than 3 million people while helping farmers increase their farm productivity and incomes. It is expected to “tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty through a $20.4 million commitment by the Mastercard Foundation”, read a statement. Out of the 65,000 target beneficiaries, BusinessDay exclusively learnt that 80 percent of them will be women and there is also a conscious effort to ensure many new farmers are introduced into agriculture through the program.

To achieve this, Mastercard is working with Alluvia, described as a highly scalable private sector response to decades of failure by various parties to tackle one of the world’s most pressing issues: food security. It deploys an innovative business model that provides comprehensive support to small farm enterprises and smallholder farmers.

The Mastercard Foundation’s COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program will be implemented in partnership with Alluvial Agriculture, and enable participants to significantly improve yields, increasing from 2.5 tons of rice per hectare to 4.5, for example, or from 1.5 tons of maize to 4 tons.

“Farmers must be at the forefront of helping us recover from this crisis,” said Chidinma Lawanson, country head, Nigeria, at the Mastercard Foundation. “This is a sector where there is tremendous potential, not just to create food security, but to enable work. But this isn’t just about recovering from the impacts of the pandemic; it’s also about building long-term resilience in the agricultural sector so that it can withstand the effects of emerging and future issues—like climate change.”

Dimieari Von Kemedi, managing director of Alluvial, told BusinessDay that the organization is working with CIAT and IITA, in introducing best agronomic practices to farmers and in the case of maize and soybean, exploring new improved varieties that can be introduced in the country.

“We are going to be doing some seed multiplications around new varieties which we have brought in from Mexico for the maize,” he said.

The project provides 50 percent of the cost of mechanization and 75 percent of inputs and the balance will be paid by the farmers at the end of the season when off-takers would have also been secured to purchase their harvests.

“Assuming we were planting only rice at a modest 4 tons per hectare, this would be 260,000 tonnes of rice produced by this project in one season,” said Kemedi. “This is being done at serious scale”.

Alluvial’s innovative business model provides comprehensive support to smallholder farmers, including training, technology, land preparation, irrigation, input supplies, and market access. The company achieves this by organizing adjacent farms in community blocks. This means that tractors, for example, can efficiently plow each of the smallholdings, saving weeks of toiling by hand.

“With this tremendous support from the Mastercard Foundation, and expertise from numerous valued partners, Alluvial is transforming the approach to tackling hunger and poverty by channelling resources into sustainable food production as opposed to transitory food aid,” said Kemedi. “We invite all farmers, agriculturalists, and others to join us in one of the world’s most pressing endeavours.”

Using technology accessible from low-tech mobiles, Alluvial is also providing training and peer-to-peer advice on farm and market information, including rating providers of inputs and services. Alluvial’s Market Information and Digital Payment System also enable fast and secure electronic payment through the Farmer Network Digital Payment System. Farmers can purchase from vetted providers of seeds and other inputs and services and securely receive payments by direct transfer.

Alluvial, according to Kemedi, is hoping to sustain this beyond the 2-year support from MasterCard foundation and is already working with a group of banks who are registering the farmers. By virtue of working with on the project, the banks would see firsthand if the operations have been successful or not.

“That apart from anything else is to help the farmers build a credit history,” said Kemedi, and to be able to approach banks on their own for subsequent funding and being attractive to other groups of investors.


How kenaf value chain development can save billions of naira

Maximizing import substitution strategy using local contents, jute bags, which cost the country about N2.75 billion yearly to import, and other environment-friendly products such as vehicle parts can be developed from kenaf and save the country from economic crises. Jute bags are used in packaging and post-harvest storage of dried cocoa beans, cashew nuts, coffee and other farm produce.

Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus L.) is a multi-purpose bio-economic crop. It is a fast-growing, annual crop that belongs to the Malvaceae family.  It belongs to the genus Hibiscus that comprises about 400 annual and perennial species. Kenaf has been associated with over 120 common names, such as mesta, treal, roselle, ambary hemp, and rama, indicating how widespread and diverse the species is.  

It has been hailed as a multifunctional crop that has the potential of replacing crude oil in several applications.   
Considering the current global environmental challenges, the need to return green or bio-economy has become imperative. There are four major motivations behind this. Bio-economy will lead to improvement in the quality of the environment; improve agricultural production and productivity, national food and social security and a stronger and sustainable economy. 

Kenaf, as a renewable commodity, presents an unlimited opportunity as a promising source of energy, food and industrial raw materials.  Kenaf bio-economy represents one of the most promising ways to secure sustainable economic growth and industrial development and environmental amelioration resulting from population growth and over dependence on petroleum resources. Therefore, development of kenaf bio-economy in relevant nations like Nigeria will lead to green growth of economies.

Director-General, Raw Material Research Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. H.D. Ibrahim, said: “The industrial attractiveness of kenaf lies in its stem, whose diameter varies from 25-50mm. The kenaf stem is composed of an inner porous and woody core which consists of about 60-65% of the stem. 

“The core contains short fibers of an average length of between 0.6 mm-length, and 33 μm-width.  The outer fibrous bast consists of about 35 – 45% of the stem and contains long, strong, and valuable fibers for industry.  The average fibre length of the fibrous bast is about 2.5 mm-length and 17 μm-width.  Due to the differences in fibre anatomy and properties, the bast and core have different industrial applications.’’

He explained that they, however, have to be separated through retting, ribboning and decortication.  The traditional retting method occurs in the field, where the stems are harvested and left in the field for several days, allowing them to rot naturally by air, dew, and common bacteria.

“Often, the stems are submerged in water ponds, canals, or tanks to accelerate the process. On industrial scale, this is done by either enzymatic, chemical/ mechanical, chemical/enzymatic or steam explosion methods.
“On the basis of industrial application, kenaf is used for cordage, woven and non-woven textile products. Kenaf bast and core fibers are used as reinforcing fiber in bio-composites.  It is also used in particle, hard, and insulation boards, compression-molded products, laminates production, etc. A blend of 40% kenaf fibers could be substituted to wood flour fillers and combined with virgin plastics such as polypropylene or recycled low density polyethylene,” he added.

Analysis of kenaf indicates its core panels usually present much lower densities (218kg m-3), thermal conductivity, and higher acoustical properties than traditional wood panels, which makes them ideal for ceiling tiles, doors, or walls and furniture.  Medium density fiberboard panels made out of kenaf bast can be, therefore, used for laminated floors and cabinet doors, among others.

“The Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan uses kenaf bioplastic interior components for its Toyota Lexus GS. It reduced the weight of the vehicle, and consequently, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Also, Panasonic Electric Works makes structural wall board with kenaf to replace plywood.  Likewise, kenaf could be converted into heat, bio-power, bio-fuel and chemicals.  

“The kenaf core is very porous and is attractive for absorbent applications such as wipes, hygienic products, water filtration system, bedding for livestock, poultry or rodents. This is because kenaf acts like a sponge in terms of urine, odors and dust,” Prof. Ibrahim added.

Researchers also said oil spill cleaning is a very important area where application of kenaf could be useful.  It was used as one of the oil absorbents during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.  As a natural filter, kenaf is used to improve soil and water quality. Along with papyrus and sorghum, kenaf has been shown to present the highest nitrogen and phosphorus removal rates, especially during the summer and fall.  Nutritionally, Kenaf leaves are rich in crude protein.  The leaves contain 14 – 34% protein, while the stalk contains about 2 – 12%.  The leaves are used as human food, similar to spinach, in India, Haiti and in some areas of Africa.

In produce packaging and post-harvest handling, jute sacks are old traditional sacks made from jute and kenaf fibres. They are extensively used for packaging materials in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and many less developed countries. They are strong and coarse bags, normally used for carrying heavy produce with adequate ventilation. 
Bangladesh is the leading exporter of jute and kenaf bags, followed by India and China.  The three countries account for over 90% of the world export. The principal importers of kenaf products, especially sacks, are the countries producing large volumes of agricultural commodities like USA, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Netherlands, some African countries, etc.

Nigeria can play a significant role in the production of jute bags, which are bio-degradable, environment-friendly and cost-effective. This can increase the gross domestic product (GDP) significantly through export and home use.  

Development of kenaf bio-economy in Nigeria is plausible and very attractive, as Nigeria has over one million hectares of land suitable for its cultivation in about 18 States of the federation, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, Plateau, Kwara, Kaduna, Benue, Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti and the FCT. 

Experts have said due to the collapse of the first national initiative on jute sacks production in Jos and Badagry by Nigeria Fibre Company (NIFINCO) and Nigeria Fibre Production Limited (NNFPL) around 1971 and the increase in jute sacks requirement from 2 million pieces to 5 million pieces, it is imperative that efforts be made to revisit the production of jute sacks in Nigeria.  

This is more important as the cost of jute sack importation is about N2.75 billion in foreign exchange equivalent yearly. The situation is becoming very pathetic as a number of commodity exporters have resorted to importing second-hand jute sacks from Ghana. This has contributed to further rejection of many agricultural produce being exported from Nigeria.  

To promote kenaf bio-economy in Nigeria, the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, (IAR&T) Ibadan, and RMRDC have promoted kenaf varietal development and domestication of improved varieties of imported Cuba 108, Cuba 2032, Everglades 71, Guatemala 3F. 

This was followed by multi-locational-field trials of the imported improved kenaf seeds in the South-West geo-political zone during which only Cuba 108 was found to be most adaptable to the local environment and cultural agronomic practices.

In addition, the technology for the design and fabrication of kenaf decorticating machine is now available locally. With these achievements, the country is ripe for sustainable development of kenaf bio-economy. However, this is only achievable if investors are ready to invest in kenaf processing in Nigeria.

Source: The Guardian



We’ll support farmers with interest-free loans

The Federal Government on Sunday said it would support farmers across the country with interest-free loans.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, said his ministry would work with the Central Bank of Nigeria in providing the loans.

Nanono stated this while receiving the 2020 Wet Agricultural Performance Survey, according to a statement issued by an information official of his ministry, Ezeaja Ikemefuna, in Abuja on Sunday.

“The ministry would support the farmers with agricultural inputs and zero interest loans through the Central Bank of Nigeria and other financial institutions to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 and the recent flooding especially in Kebbi, Jigawa and Kano States,” the minister stated.

On the survey, he said the exercise had shown that effective input subsidisation would boost productivity in the agricultural sector.

He urged farmers to intensify efforts and focus on achieving more successes during the dry season farming in order to cushion the loses caused by the pandemic.

Source: Punch