Taiwo Oluwadare, Ibadan
The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, Oyo State, penultimate week trained unemployed youths on production of tomato and telfairia otherwise known as Ugwu as a way to enhance their self-reliance and economic development in the country.
At the three-day training held at the institute’s hall, Idi-Ishin, Jericho Reservation Area, Ibadan, chairman of the institute’s Governing Board, Major General Garba Mohammed (retd), said, “tomato and telfairia are important economic and food security crops capable of improving livelihood and employment generation.
“To achieve sustainable economic empowerment in the commodity value chains, it becomes crucial to build capacity of stakeholders. Capacity building is necessary to equip stakeholders with skills and competencies necessary in horticultural value chains to ensure sustainable agricultural development, improved income and economic empowerment.” He was represented by a board member, Musa Lawal.
NIHORT Executive Director, Dr. Abayomi Olaniyan, said: “Tomato is one of the most important and major vegetables in the country, a valuable raw material in processing products such as juice, puree, paste, ketchup/sauce, dry slices, powder and canned or bottle whole. It is widely cultivated due to the economic and nutritional importance of the crop. It is a profitable horticultural crop that provides income to farmers and agents involved in its production and marketing.
“Tomato production of Nigeria is still short of what is demanded. Production figure for fresh tomatoes is about 1.8million tonnes while the annual demand is 2.3million tonnes. Tomato nursery management is important for future development of the commodity value chain.
“The nursery is a basic need and a prerequisite for producing quality seedlings. Putting efforts on quality seedling production offers scope for sustainable tomato production. Nursery provides employment opportunities for technical, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour.
“Also, there is need to process tomato in order to reduce seasonal glut and inconsistent year round supply. Processing tomato will go a long way in reducing quantity of tomato imported into the country most especially the lean season of tomato supply.
“Telfairia is in high demand and widely consumed in Nigeria. The leaf is of high nutritional, medicinal and industrial values, rich in protein, fat, mineral and vitamins. The seed is high in amino acids and can be compared with soya bean meal. The seed also contains about 30 percent protein and a high percentage of a non-drying oil.
“The high oil content of the seeds makes it a potential source of raw material for vegetable oil industry in Nigeria. However, telfairia production both leaf and seed is short supplied because of lack of knowledge in good agricultural practices, but this training will fill the gap.”
One of the resource persons, Joel Akingbile Akinfaseyin, a vegetable agronomist with NIHORT, hinted that Nigeria “is crop and agricultural based and as a result, unemployed youths can make money through agriculture, especially vegetable production.
“There are diverse areas people can gainful engage and make money in telfairia production. You can specialise on fruit or seed production and you can begin to make money. Today, people bring telfairia seed from Calabar to Lagos. There is a market in Oyingbo in Lagos that is purely base on telfairia seed sales.
“You can make your living on this. Also, you can focus on nursery technique of telfairia, which is raising seedlings for people and selling them. Somebody came to me about two years ago saying, can I raise about 5000 seedlings telfairia for him? I said yes and I raised one for N50. Today, a seedling of telfairia is N100.
“And what does it require to raise it? You can use pure water bags, open floor or tray- gather them together, irrigate them and within two weeks, they are ready for sales. But it is advisable not to grow seedlings if you don’t have buyers because very soon, they will over-grow if there is no market.
“Therefore, you must know your market before you go and produce, even at every stage of its production, your must know your market.”