Creating Appropriate Technology as a Means of Waste Minimization in Cassava End Products/By-Products
Permit me to start this paper by commending the initiatives of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology in organizing this 30th international conference. The presence of renowned delegates from great nations of African Continent to juxtapose ideas will no doubt enhance the quality of the outcome of this year's annual conference. My office is proud to associate with the good work and achievements of NIFST in advancing food science and technology in Nigeria over the years. The theme of this conference is very germane and central to the socio-economic development of Nigeria and Africa in general especially in the area of agricultural development through food science and technology.
Nigeria is agrarian and agriculture remains the hub of the economy providing employment for over 90 per cent of the rural dwellers who constitute about 70 per cent of our total population. Nigeria strength and potentials include abundant land, labour and natural resources. The country has an area covering 92.4 million hectares including 91.1 million hectares of land mass and 1.3 million hectares of water bodies. Our agricultural land area of 83.6 million hectares is classified as 28.2 million ha arable, 2 million ha fadama (irrigable land), 2.5 million ha permanent crops, 10.9 ha forest/wood and 40 million ha pastures.
In addition to the foregoing, over 70 per cent of Nigerian populace reside in the rural area and agriculture provide employment to more than 90 per cent of these rural dwellers through the up and down stream activities of production, processing, packaging and marketing. This explains the wisdom of the present administration under the dynamic leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo to put agriculture at the front burner of its economic agenda and reforms. The Federal Government has launched various policies and taken measures aimed at turning around the economy and restoring the lost glory of agriculture. The ongoing efforts to grow the Nigerian economy annually by 10 per cent rely heavily on the contribution from agriculture. The agricultural policy adopted in the year 2000 has the principal objective of creating conducive macro-environment to stimulate greater private sector investment in agriculture. The policy document clearly stipulates the roles and functions of the three ties of Governments and the Private sector.
Policy and Incentives
Some of the policy interventions and incentives to stimulate growth through agriculture include:
1.Outright ban on the importation of fruit juice, vegetable, poultry products and others where Nigeria has very high comparative advantage.
2. Increased agricultural finance including higher budgetary allocation and loan facilities. A loan portfolio of N50.0 billion is earmarked for agriculture in the ongoing cropping season for farmers, processors, fabricators and inputs suppliers. The draw down of the loan domiciled in Agric Bank and Commercial Banks is very low. Beneficiaries are enjoined to pool resources and form cooperatives to ensure group guarantee for the loan. In an attempt to backward integrate, the Flour Milling Association of Nigeria has also contributed N500 million cassava empowerment fund to be extended as loan to farmers, processors and equipment fabricators.
3. National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM) and other research based institutes are being strengthened to provide necessary policy guidelines, enhance technology and provide prototypes of agricultural equipment.
4. Delivery of extension and advisory service by the Federal Government agencies and nation â€“ wide Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) is at 100 per cent subsidy.
5. Through privatization and restructuring, Federal Govt is divesting from direct involvement in agricultural production giving room for private sector-led agriculture.
Creating Appropriate Technology to Minimize Waste in Cassava Products.
Through the Presidential Initiatives on Cassava Production, Processing and Export, Cassava industry has been transformed and commercialized in Nigeria. Cassava has become the white gold mine's of Nigeria with boundless potentials for job and wealth creation, foreign exchange earnings, and household food security. More importantly, the introduction of the policy of 10 per cent Cassava Flour inclusion in bread and other confectionery in November 2004 has created wide window of investment opportunities. The policy, if earnestly implemented, will generate additional 6 million jobs in the industry. Other areas of viable investment include chips and pellets for animal feeds, starch for pharmaceutical, oil drilling, battery, beverage and textile industries, etc. Perhaps, the greatest untapped potential is the ethanol production from cassava for use as fuel and substitute in petrol.
Despite the seemingly uncanny potentials in cassava industry, the estimated 20 to 30 per cent post harvest losses in root and tuber crops, cassava included makes the need for creating appropriate technology for waste minimization imperative. Lack of cost effective processing and on-farm storage equipment is responsible for this unacceptable level of wastage. The need to package our products to meet international standard cannot be overstressed. Standard packaging prolongs the shelf life of products and assists in value addition for better income.
In addition to waste minimization, other advantages that will accrue from appropriate technology include increased productivity and income to farmers and processors, job creation, food security, saved foreign exchange, enhanced competitiveness at the international markets, et cetera.
To achieve the desired objectives and goal, the technology must be simple, users friendly and cost effective. It must have very high percentage of local content for sustainability. It must be capable of reducing drudgery and less cumbersome in operation. In this connection, appropriate technology should centre on production, processing, storage and packaging stages. Cassava being a bulky product, appropriate technology should promote an efficient supply chain management linking all stakeholders from inputs to primary and secondary products producers and users.
At production stage, technologies required include early maturing and disease resistant varieties of cassava, high starch content, varieties that are palatable and sweet. The critical element in attaining high quality product at processing stage is drying to avoid unwanted fermentation. We need to seriously explore the options of solar drying using local materials such as raised platform and other locally available materials. The locally fabricated flash dryer must be perfected to be at par with imported dryers. Technology must also address the required moisture content (10 maximum in starch and flour), pH value in 10 solution, viscosity at solution, purity and size suitability. We should also focus on the need to produce technology designed to prolong the shelf life of cassava products and by-products.
It is apposite to state here that appropriate technology must be targeted at small and Medium Scale Enterprises for rapid advancement and economic growth. America's economy is made up of 75 SMEs. Indian and China, two fast growing economies of the world today, lay solid economic foundations on SMEs. Machines and equipment are needed in SMEs and cottage industries for production, processing, storage and packaging for value addition. We should work closely with Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in exploring available options in this direction.
Challenges of Creating Technology
There are obvious constraints to the capacity of scientists to produce appropriate technology to meet growing demand of industries in Nigeria. The foremost constraint is capital for research and extension of technology to the targeted users. It is also noteworthy that thousands of research results are left on the shelf ultilized. The public-private partnership being promoted by the present administration should be exploited to promote the adoption to these technologies. The Prototypes in our research institutes should be released to the private sector for commercial production. The fabricators should take advantage of numerous credit outlets presently available through the reform agenda of Mr. President to access funds for commercial production of machines and equipment.
Equipment fabrication and production of chemical materials constitute areas of vast potential for investment, employment generation and wealth creation. To fully tap these potentials, private sector must team up with the Government under the Public Private Partnership being promoted in the ongoing reforms. NIFST should work closely with National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM), Federal Institute for Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), Standard Organization of Nigeria, Raw Material Research and Development Council and other relevant bodies with a view to pushing improved prototypes of equipment and chemical materials for commercial production. NIFST is enjoined to join the ongoing concerted efforts towards perfecting the local equipment in cassava production, processing and packaging.
Once again, I congratulate NIFST for successful 30th Annual Conference and I Thank you all especially our foreign delegates for your effective contributions to this conference.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.