The Nigerian Institute for
Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) has debunked insinuations that Malaysia obtained its first palm fruits/ seedlings from Nigeria.
Dr Christy Okwuagwu, the Director, Production at the institute, denied the rumour while conducting media fellows round the institute’s research projects in Benin recently.
The fellows were sponsored by the ‘Biosciences for Farming in Africa’, an international non-profit organisation.
The facility visit was aimed at assessing the level of research on oil palm at the institute.
Okwuagwu told our correspondent on the sidelines of the visit that Malaysia couldn’t have taken seedlings from Nigeria through NIFOR because the country was advanced in oil palm production before the establishment of NIFOR.
“It is a story that is always carried around that Malaysia came to NIFOR to get seeds and now Malaysia has overtaken Nigeria.
“There is no way to assume that Malaysians came to Nigeria and got planting material and now they have overtaken us, they never did.
“People say it carelessly and they believe it.
“This is one of the very basic information I want to debunk in every situation because we know truly that it was through the Dutch expedition that the Malaysians had this planting material in the 19th century.
“NIFOR actually existed because of the threat that Malaysia posed to a continuous exploitation of wild grooves.”
Okwuagwu, who is the oldest scientist in the institute, also backed up her claim with historical references.
She showed evidence through the documentations of a book titled “The Oil Palm’’, authored by R.H.V. Corley and P.B. Tinker.
“The origin of the very original planting materials in Malaysia.
“The earliest record of introduction of palms into South East Asia was first seedlings planted in Bogo Botanical Garden in 1848 in Jaba in the Dutch East Indies.
“Two of these were from Amsterdam Botanical Garden but it is not known how they originated, the other two from Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
“The palms that sprang from these four seedlings were all quite similar and it has been supposed that they were all originally produced from Amsterdam, through some African unknown origin.
“These four seedlings — they formed the entire source of the planting material in Malaysia.
“That is why we say that the entire population of the planting material in Malaysia are very narrow genetic base; we don’t normally depend entirely on them for breeding and development.
“Actually, it is necessary that they depend on us and subsequent materials to improve their planting material.
“The original materials never came from Nigeria; they came from Dutch expedition of the early 19th century.
“And because of the fact that the crop had economic advantage in their land, they started multiplying these seedlings and raising them as plantation crops; they don’t have natural populations; this is the source of everything in South East Asia.”
For Nigeria, the director said policy instability and inadequate funding and land provision, were the major factors militating against the growth of the oil palm industry.
“African countries are being characterised with instability of policies. This instability of policies and development have hindered the progress in plantation development.
“Concerted efforts have not been made over the years.
“The industry in this country has not grown in comparison to the rate at which recent development has grown; the oil boom became a doom because palm produce became relatively unimportant to our total economic well-being.
“We are totally dependent on petroleum and so efforts to establish plantations and go forward with this crop will not grow.
“Irregular interventions do not sustain development; this crop which is native to us we have not done it the good that we should have done to it; other countries who have embraced it, have seen progress.
“Our environment is not the best compared to South East Asia; but we have planting materials which are so good and their yield are very comparable to the average yield in South East Asia.
“It is to get the industry committed to the development of this crop.”
She further called for the resuscitation of all economic crops in the country to boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange.
“People should go into plantation development, it stabilises the environment. We are talking about pollution, ozone depletion, the oil palm is one single crop that cleanses the environment.
“Malaysia prides itself as one of the best environments in the world because everywhere is green, the tree has a beautiful shading effect against the ozone.
“I am making a clarion call that people should please go back to our heritage.
“Let the groundnut pyramids come up in the North; let the cocoa boom come to the West while in the East and in the Mid-West, let the oil palm industry thrive.
“The goodness of it is that the oil palm has grown beyond the East and Mid-West; Nasarawa is a beautiful example.
“Taraba – the whole strip along the Mambilla is excellent, just like the same in Malaysia, good soil, good rainfall, excellent soil but people are not planting; people should please go back to our heritage.”
IITA Develops New Potato Variety
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.
Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan
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.
NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing
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.
”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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