The Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Professor
Kolawole Salako, has revealed that the university has been translating theories into practical agricultural businesses to effectively realise its mandate of training the highest level of manpower for the all-important agricultural sector.
The need to establish a town and gown relationship and correct the negative impression that the academia is not in touch with the realities of the society is a strong motivation for the university, he added.
Training students without practical agribusiness orientations would amount to a waste of time, he explained, and that students of the varsity are thoroughly taken through theoretical and practical agriculture to positively build the manpower required across the sector so the nation could be fed and become food-secure.
While exclusively taking The Guardian round the agricultural enterprises of the university, the vice chancellor revealed that the biggest challenge of the sector is grossly inadequate power generation/distribution, as this accounts for inability to rev up industrialisation of agricultural products. This, in turn, leads to post-harvest losses and monumental food wastages in a country where over 87 million people are said to be poor and unable to feed well.
With the support of the Federal Government, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Greenwich University, FUNAAB could boast of several sustainable agribusinesses, ranging from staple foods to edible nuts.
Cassava value addition has been deepened, and from the records of the university, the agribusiness models around cassava economy are not only sustainable but also capable of reducing the number of unemployed youths.
The university has over 26 hectares of cassava farmland, from where it sources the fresh roots being processed into gari, odorless fufu, quality cassava flour, among others. It buys from neighbouring famers to augment production occasionally.
Pounded yam powder is also processed alongside the other products. Explaining the process, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Lateef Sanni, said tubers of yam are peeled, sliced into chips, washed, parboiled slightly, allowed to cool in a stainless tray and then grated. The granulated particles are flash-dried and packaged as pounded yam powder.
The flash dryers, automated gari dryers, graters and other equipment used by the university are locally designed and fabricated by Nigerian technologists, Nobex Technologies and Niji Engineering Ltd, The Guardian was told.
The university also operates a cashew processing unit, where it processes cashew nuts into edible nuts packaged in bottles. Over 60 hectares of cashew farmland supply the nuts needed in the factory and the remaining nuts are often sold to exporters.
The oil palm processing section of the university is supplied fresh palm fruits from over 30 hectares of the palm trees plantation, and these are processed into edible palm oil and sold to the academic community and the public.
The enterprises, Professor Salako explained, are expandable and are prototypes of how small and medium-scale agro-businesses should be modelled, and that the university had been transferring the art and sciences of these businesses either through the students or entrepreneurs taking up the models. The university says it is ready to empower more Nigerians with such to increase food production, value addition, job creation and poverty alleviation.
Its bakery products are said to be over-demanded, and that plans are on to expand daily production of loaves to cater for the surging demand from students, the members of staff and the public.
Most of the innovative agribusinesses are results of research activities carried on by the members of the academia and with resource support from donors and the government, Salako explains.
FUNAAB Alpha chicken breed, the don added, attains over 2.5kg in eight weeks, with low mortality rate, excellent feed conversion economy and disease resistance. Also, the university Alpha layer breed lays about 250 eggs yearly, outperforming the imported exotic breeds, which lay about 220 eggs per annum.