According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) the combined unemployment and underemployment rate in the country escalated from 37.2% to 40% in the Second Quarter of 2017. It got worse for the youth, especially in the age bracket of between 15 to 35 which stood at an alarming rate of 52.65%! Apparently, the warning given by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to Nigeria of an impending unemployment cises back in 2010 has not been heeded.
In comparative terms to some African countries, youth unemployment in Liberia stands at 4.7%, Kenya 18.7%, Egypt 26.3%,South Africa 27.7%(its highest in recent years), Lesotho 31.8 %, Libya, 43.8% and Ghana 48%. As expected in more economically advanced countries, youth unemployment figures are more acceptable. For instance Germany has as low as 3.6%,Great Britain 4.2%,Eurpean Union 7.4% and France 9.4%.
It would be recalled that the World Bank had back in 2013 suggested that investment in agriculture would be the most sustainable way out of the wood. In this wise, it has become necessary to let the job-seeking Nigerians realize that they could capitalize on research findings and products by the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, FIIRO, Oshodi to become gainfully employed.
Over the years the Institute has put the results of its R&D at the disposal of interested Nigerians, using technology transfer services to enable them exploit such results for better living ad economic benefits. The technologies for which training courses are organized includes:
Mechanized cassava flour production, mechanized production of fufu, cassava chips and pellets production,palm wine bottling and preservation, edible mushroom production, cassava-wheat flour composite bread production, and dry milling of grains and legumes.
Others are :Instant pounded yam flour production, fruit juice extraction, Zoborodo drink production, and essential oils extraction (from lemon grass, eucalyptus and citronella leaves). other technological breakthroughs which Nigerians can delve into for both food security and employment/wealth generation are:Cassava-wheat flour composite bread production, mechanized production of gari, lafun, fufu and starch from cassava roots,production of glucose syrup from cassava starch,production of noodles from cassava,mechanized production of cassava flour,production of cassava chips and pellets, soy-ogi production from local cereals, fortified with soybean (a weaning food for infants as substitute for imported baby food), production of potabale alcohol from palm wine and other fermentable worts.
In a similar vein there are other areas of agriculture and its allied products that job seekers could be trained in are the: production of table vinegar from fermented palm wine, preservation and bottling of palm wine, improved traditional fish and meat smoking techniques, production of brewer’s malt and malt beverage from sorghum, production of ale from sorghum malt, production of livestock feed antibiotics, development of composite flour from local cereals and wheat for confectioneries baking, production of ethanol from cassava peels,detoxification of cassava starch for use in the food and pharmaceutical industries, and edible mushroom production.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (R & D) PROJECTS
The Institute’s research projects have relevance to the technological and economic problems of the Nation. They are initiated in-house in pursuance of the Institute’s mandate and as a demonstration of its problem-solving posture. Such projects are in consonance with the set objectives of the Institute and are embarked upon after thorough investigations of the desirability through market research and enquiries. Results are documented and can be obtained by interested individuals. Those that have high potentials or commercial prospects are transferred to entrepreneurs.
BIOTECHNOLOGY R & D PROJECTS
Gari is a cassava product that serves as a staple food for most Nigerians. It is in the form of tiny granules which can be consumed directly, or after soaking in water, with or without any supplement. In order to make it more nutritions, its protein level could be raised from about 1% to 10% by enriching it with soy beans. The Institute successfully carried out research into the production of a high protein gari using soybean. This will reduce the incidence of protein deficiency diseases among the consumers.
DETOXIFIED CASSAVA STARCH PRODUCTION
The biggest shortcoming of cassava starch is hydrocyanic acid, which limits its use in industries especially the pharmaceutical industries. Detoxification is the process through which it is removed and the starch becomes safe for use, not only in the textile industry but also in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
PRODUCTION OF GLUCOSE SYRUP FROM CASSAVA STARCH
The production of glucose syrup from cassava starch using glucoamylase which was obtained by solid state fermentation of rice bran with the fungus Aspergillus niger on laboratory scale has been established. The enzymic hydrolysis of cassava starch gave a glucose syrup which has a pH 6.0’ specific gravity 1.0’ total reducing sugars 30.4%, total solids 80% and dextrose equivalent 38%. Glucose syrup is a sweetener used industrially in Nigeria, for example in the food, soft drink and confectionary industries. The establishment of a process for conversion of cassava starch to glucose syrup would enhance the local capability of glucose syrup production.
Microbiological, biochemical, chemical and nutritional studies have been carried out on this food condiment made from soy and locust beans. Other studies on it include investigation of enzymes of significance in the fermentation processes, fermentation equipment and control system for optimization and scale up of traditional fermentation technology.
PRODUCTION OF CLARIFIED FRUIT JUICE
The production of clarified fruit juices from mango, apple, banana, pawpaw, cashew and guava using locally produced pectinase enzymes have been successfully established at pilot scale level. The biochemical and microbiological safety of bottled clarified juices were analyzed and found satisfactory. The pH of the fruit juices were in the range of 4.0-4.8 and the sugar level 8-150 brix. The bottled clarified fruit juice have a longer shelf life compared to cloudy juice.
EDIBLE MUSHROOM PRODUCTION
Mushrooms belongs to the family of fungi and are found growing on dead wood and other decaying organic matter. They are rich in protein, vitamins and mineral salts, and may serve as a substitute for fish or meat. Mushrooms are of two types: the edible and the poisonous. FIIRO through research breakthrough has been able to demonstrate the possibility of producing edible mushroom commercially.
To make the dream of self-employment a reality, using FIIRO products there has to be:
a. More Awareness creation in the media to reach out to those who may not have knowledge of the vast opportunities waiting to be tapped using these products.
b. A synergy between Research Institutes and the private sector, especially the Local Industrialists and the banking sector which could fund these projects to act as catalyst for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). This is what obtains in advanced economies such as the US, UK, China, India, and Israel.
c. More funding for Research Institutes to meet their mandate, not only in coming up with commercially viable products but act as veritable platform to generate employment and create wealth.
d. Federal and State governments should partner with Research Institutes such as FIIRO in formulating programs for employment generation and self sufficiency in food production.
e. Also these two tiers of government have a responsibility to engage Research Institutes such as FIIRO while partnering with foreign donor agencies in the areas of food production, processing and preservation so that food security would be guaranteed.
Ayo Oyoze Baje