More than Agbado (Maize), CASSAVA is one significant tropical crop in which Nigeria as a country has lot of leverage opportunity on. Beyond being an ordinary food crop, I’m yet to see a single crop grown in Nigeria that has so much industrial applications and potential opportunities like Cassava. The fact that it is relatively cheap and readily available all year round in our country irrespective of weather conditions makes it a special crop to really embrace and thoroughly exploit in this our clime.
Unlike crude oil, it is one major natural asset that that anyone can easily access for exploit anywhere in Nigeria. If we can really dig deep like what the ‘white world’ that are not even naturally blessed with the crop are doing on its explorations and exploitations, it could be the fortune that the Youth generation need to rightly position Nigeria on the economic map of the world.
Talking about the Nigerian Youths and their participation in agric business, I am so convince that with the right tools and friendly working environment, they are the power house of Nigeria in the direction of positive economic turn around. The Youth population is where the energy of any nation belongs. If this capacity is well captured, encouraged, directed and coordinated – particularly on agric business cum agro processing, I strongly believe that its positive impact on our economy shall begin to surface in no time.
The gradual industrial revolution on Cassava exploitations in Nigeria is taking impressive steps day by day though lots can be done on the part of the government to fast track this journey. In the last 10-15 years, I know of about five or more Cassava base Ethanol manufacturing companies that have sprang up in Nigeria. The combine forces of Unicane (Lokoja), Pure Biotech (Makurdi) and the one in Zaki Biam (I can’t remember the name) have the capacity to convert more than 50% of Cassava tuber grown in the entire middle belt. AADL, Weewood and Sona are other three major ones in the South West.
All these companies are not only providing jobs for the Youths but are also reducing the amount of forex that our country was expending to import Ethanol for industrial usages. We also have pockets of Cassava starch producers that are doing very well to service our local food, pharmaceutical, paper and Animal feed manufacturers with their raw materials supplies. Thanks to Psaltry (Ado Awaye), Harvest feed (Ajura) and many others in this direction. Live stock feed manufacturers that depends on cassava products like chips and peel flour in their formulation are also there. In addition to the factory in Ilorin, Olam recently raised a new high capacity mill in Kaduna state to take advantage of the Northerner mass market for poultry feeds.
Away from these high end Cassava-based manufacturing industry, the tomorrow I seek is where there are lot of small scale and medium Scale Cassava conversion centres particularly at the grassroot and farm settlement levels. Small and Medium scale Processing centres that would be geared towards industrial semi-processed raw materials beyond mere garri, Fufu, lafun and the likes. Where crude ethanol can be processed with simple machines at farm level for onward supply to big Distilleries for clean up and refinery. Where more quality cassava chips that meet international standard can be produced with ease at farm level all year round without concern for rainfall disturbances. Industrial and feed grade Cassava flour can be produced with simple low cost machines at farm gates. Where research works on other possible usages of Cassava tuber can be easily access at our local government farm offices. The potential of the waste water from garri Processing dewatering operation as a good herbicide is yet to be fully explored. This could because a money spinner for the Youths in Nigeria.
So, when talking of Agbado and Cassava for Nigerian Youths, this is the kind of tomorrow we need to be looking at. A tomorrow that will deliberately position the Nigerian Youths as the hub of our Industrial revolution. Where youth shall be encouraged with the right tools and resources to turn around the fortune of our great nation by leveraging on Cassava value chain.
A system that will encourage mass movement of youths from urban areas to rural areas. A coordinated system that should not be left mainly as government responsibility. Where local and traditional institutions are also ready to protect and secure the infrastructures provided by the government. Local Government and state government must be ready to play their parts too. Senators and Speakers have their primary obligations to their respective zones.
Providing us with needed machines like hammer mill, dehydrators, bore holes, electricity transformer etc will go a long way and we will ever support your government with our votes. We can then coordinate ourselves and work in clusters for efficiency. NGOs and Corporate bodies can also come him. The cluster scheme could taken up as CSR project or medium/long time investment. It will eventually pay off and take sizeable number of youths away from the street. Not all of us are lazy, some of us only need to be encouraged and coordinated.
And for all us as Youths, while lots is expected from our government and the society, we also need to admit the primary responsibility for our own future. We can really do a lot by getting ourselves prepared and be ready to take responsibility. Let’s all begin by learning the needed skills and rudiments in this direction. Apart from reading journals, e-books etc on Cassava value addition, let us strive to acquire practical knowledge in different areas of this field. We can learn how to make use of Cassava tuber, Cassava peel flour, Cassava leaves to compound Animal feeds. If it means paying for the knowledge, crude ethanol Production is worth learning about.
We can also begin to look at how to move fufu, garri, Pupuru, Lafun etc a step or two away from there local level. And the production of cyanide – based herbicide from cassava effluent as I mentioned above. We can learn a lot from foreign institutions journals on Cassava value explorations. We can challenge our local research institutions whenever we are stucked or need practical applications. I don’t know what FIIRO is doing at the heart of Lagos by the way. States likes Oyo, Ogun, Benue etc should have agro Processing micro research centers at strategic locations.
And as Youths, let us be more responsible. We need to show the rest of the population that we are really ready.
For me, I strongly believe Nigeria can do a lot around Cassava value chain. Cassava has been there for our fathers yesterday, as it is for us today. And It shall be there for us tomorrow. And the youth population with their energy and enthusiasm is a major plus for our nation. Together, we can make it work.