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Mushroom: Neglected Economic Crop

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At the Faculty of Agriculture Teaching and Research Farm, Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Nkpolu, Port Harcourt in Rivers State lies an emerging and foremost mushroom and spawn production and research centre with the full potentials of catapulting the country into a world class mushroom producer, an internationally acclaimed and recognized money making crop, the mushroom.

Under a tripartite arrangement between the Niger Delta Developemnt Commission, Rivers State University of Science and Technology Port Harcourt and Dilomat Farms and Services Limited in 2003, the Research Centre has been pioneering musroom production in Nigeria.

According to the chairman and chief executive officer of Dilomat Farms, Limited, Chief Moore Chinda in 2003, through research, he was able to scientifically produce the seed (Spawn) which grows the mushroom, a fact which he said prompted him to approach the former vice chancellor of the RSUST, Prof. Simeon Achinewu.

According to him, Prof Achinnewu appointed three other professors to collaborate with him after which his findings where confirmed which resulted to a space allocated to him at the University’s research farm premises.

“In 2003, we were able to get a break through in research activities and where able to discover what we call tissue culture” he beamed.

Chief Chinda who spoke with The Tide in an exclusive interview in his office in Port Harcourt, recently said his research on mushroom production was informed with a  vision for national development and expressed the view that as an initiative from a Rivers State citizen, it was imperative for the state government to take the lead in mushroom production in Nigeria.

“The research on mushrooms in this country was embarked upon with a vision for national development and it is critical for Rivers State to pioneer mushroom development in this country, particularly in view of the nations’ march to the haven of Vision 202020.”

He explained that mushroom production does not require large acres of land as compared to other food and cash crops given the limited availability of arable land for the nation’s agricultural activities.

“In fact, considering our limited land mass for agricultural activities, mushroom production can be considered a sine qua non for a sustainable agricultural policy for Rivers State because in terms of the yield for any given space of land, there is no agricultural product to compare with mushrooms all over the world,” he said.

According to the Dilomat Farms boss, now that women empowerment was taking centre stage in terms of representation for them in the country, it was imperative that women be encouraged now to go into mushrooms production because of its emphasis on scientific methods as opposed to the crude methods of conventional farming among the women.

“The case for women empowerment is even more critical at this point in time when emphasis for greater representation for women is gaining momentum in the country.

“Mushroom production can be considered a veritable vehicle for women empowerment in the field of agriculture because of its scientific and refined nature and appeal, purged of the drudgery of our present conventional agricultural systems with hoes, machetes etc, he counseled.

Chief Chinda further explained that in mushroom production, job opportunities abound for all classes of people in the society including the reduction of poverty and youth restiveness and better health for the nation.

He emphasized that mushroom production could reduce the nation’s unemployment rate, improve agricultural output as well as boost the industrial development of the nation.

“The benefits of mushroom production include immense job opportunities for all classes of people in the society, amelioration of poverty and youth restiveness, better health for society, minimal gestation period of one week, improved workforce for the nation, better foreign exchange earnings for the nation, boost industrial development of the nation and minimal expenditure on waste disposal and environmental management.”

According to the mushroom expert farmer, virtually all the inputs for this venture of conversion of waste to wealth were locally and readily available agricultural and other waste products which serves as a better option for fertiliser for crops.

He said that research opportunities for universities and other institutions especially on tropical mushrooms was yet another benefit from the emerging mushroom industry in the country.

Chief Chinda advocated for the culture of mushroom consumption in the society as according to him, mushrooms does not only serve as source of food but medicinal in nature, especially for practitioners of vegetarianism.

“By installing a mushroom consumption culture in the diets of the rich and poor, the state would have taken an important step in the march to preventive rather than curative health care, especially in the realms of cancer, hypertension, obesity etc, in line with the MDG policy of the Federal Government.”

While describing mushroom production as the most versatile and prolific agricultural venture in the world, he expressed the fear that the main impediment to its mass production was the unavailability of a reliable source of spawn (seed).

According to chief Chinda, China came into limelight as a world producer of mushrooms through the introduction of what has come to be known today as the House hold Responsibility System (HRS) reforms in China.

“China now produces 8 million metric tons of mushrooms valued over 40 billion US dollars employing over 30 million people, a dramatic upsurge from the 60,000 metric tons before the reforms of 1978.”

He also revealed that Pennysylvania, regarded as the leading producer of mushrooms in the world employed over 10,000 people in 1975 who produced mushroom valued at 63.8 million US Dollars, adding that  as at now, total world production of mushroom in 1997 amounted to 7 million metric tons which was valued over 30 billion US Dollars, and a phenomenal rise from 350 metric tons in 1965 and that the upward trend was still on the increase.

“In 1975, Pennysylvania the mushroom capital of the world gave employment to over 10,000 people producing mushroom valued at 63.8 million US Dallars,” he further revealed. Chief Chinda said so far, patronage and interest was low despite the recent passing out of some trainees sponsored by the Rivers State Government under the auspices of the Ministry of Women Affairs.

Chief Chinda further called on people from all works of life to embrace mushroom training which he said was for just few weeks.

He especially called on companies to avail themselves of the moderate amounts needed for training by encouraging and sponsoring indigenes of their  host communities in mushroom cultivation training to enable them establish their own farms in the future.

This he said would go a long way in curbing youth restiveness in the rural communities.

“When you talk about the restive youths, this is a very good vehicle to be able to tackle the problem of youth restiveness,” he said.

He said government should be at the fore front towards the empowerment of the youths because according to him, what was being done in China and elsewhere in the world today was already in Nigeria.

“But we have not got much of assistance from government, if government fulfills most of their promises, what is being done in China or any of this countries, we already have the technology, we have the secret.

“If government believes passionately about mushroom we will be able to produce other products like mushroom milk, tablets and all other products which we import needlessly and of poor quality.”

Without over beating the issue about the importance of mushroom to the growth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, it is clear that mushroom business is big business.

Few individuals cannot do it alone. Its important to broaden the field so that like the pyramid the mushroom industry would grow, for according to Chief Chinda, “if government gets involved we may even call it gold one day,” he enthused.

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Agriculture

IITA Develops New Potato Variety

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Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa.  Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said.  Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water.  The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting.  He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.

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Agriculture

Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan

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The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.

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Agriculture

NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing

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The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative,  Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria,  Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with  comparative advantages.
farming season?
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)  Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.

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