The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, in collaboration with Onicon.Resources Ltd, has commenced training of 30 youths on citrus, plantain seedlings and banana/plantain soap production to take them out of the labour market.
The three-day training, which commenced on Tuesday in Ibadan, Oyo State, would expose the participants to rapid multiplication techniques used in orange seedling and plantain sucker production with the aim of making them suppliers to farmers.
The techniques, according to the Executive Director of the Institute, Dr Abayomi Olaniyan, represented by the Director of Research and Development, Dr Adeoye Afolayan, would make available purified and disease-free seedlings to farmers.
The empowerment became imperative, according to Olaniyan, to solve three main challenges, which are dearth of pure seedlings in citrus and plantain; high rate of unemployment among youths and non-availability of oranges for fruit-producing companies, making them to import concentrates.
The NIHORT boss said citrus is one of the world’s most important economic fruit crops and that Nigeria is the highest producer of the fruit in Africa and is recorded as the world’s 9th producing country with an annual estimated production of 3,325,958 metric tonnes.
Citrus nursery production, he added, is important for future development of the commodity value chain and the nursery is consequently a basic need of horticulture to produce quality seedlings.
Similarly, he said plantain is an important food security crop and a source of income, most especially for smallholder farmers.
“Plantain is very easy to cultivate and maintain, unlike other cash crops that require so much time and money to maintain. It is a low capital agribusiness; very lucrative and almost every Nigerian soil is good for it,” he explained.
Nursery facilitates best conditions for growth of seedlings and selection of healthy and vigorous/true-to-type seedlings for transplanting, he added.
Director of Research and Head of Procurement of the institute, Dr Lawrence Olajide-Taiwo, said each participant would be empowered with N30,000 to start the business, and would be backed up with follow-up monitoring, technical assistance and link-up to farmers who would buy the seedlings from them.
He added that banana/plantain wastes are also converted to black soaps, and the participants would be trained how to do such.
One of the participants, Miss Damilola Arowolo, said she would like to specialise on the multiplication of plantain suckers after the training, expressing gratitude to the institute and the firm for giving them the opportunity to be trained.
Goni Marni, another participant from Borno State, said he would return to the state by the end of the training to establish plantain and orange nurseries with the aim of selling them to farmers.