To attain sustainable food and health security in Nigeria, farmers must be guided to imbibe and practice value addition which will ultimately increase their earning and prevent rip-off by middlemen who come to buy off their products cheaply and resell for profiteering. This was the submission of a Professor of Food Process Technology and Product Development, Mathew Oluwamukomi, while delivering the 139th inaugural lecture of the Federal University of Technology, Akure held on Tuesday, 16th November at the University Auditorium.
Professor Oluwamukomi who spoke on the topic, “Value Addition: A Sine Oua Non for Sustainable Food and Health Security,” defined value addition as the process of increasing the economic value and consumer appeal to a community by taking a raw product to at least the next stage of production. He said, “the value of farm products can be increased in endless ways: by cleaning and cooling, packaging, processing, distributing, cooking, combining, churning, grinding, dehulling, extracting, drying, smoking, handcrafting, spinning, weaving, labeling, or packaging.”
He frowned at buy-off of agricultural products by middlemen whom he said rip off farmers from enjoying the real benefits of their labor. “After harvesting, farmers sell their produce to middlemen who will eventually sell the produce to the processing industries or consumers. Majority of crops in this country are marketed in their raw forms, losing opportunities for higher earnings and ability to generate employment. Farmers are the most important actors in the food value chain, yet they are the least paid when compared to the other actors in the system. As a result of this a lot of revenue coming to the farm system is captured by those in the downstream of the value chain rather than the upstream, hence there is a need for farmers and food producers to understand the importance of value addition to improve on their income generation,” Oluwamukomi said.
Dwelling on health aspect of food security, the don said, “The number of hungry people in the world continues to increase with about 10 percent of the world’s population or 734 million people living on less than $1.90 a day.” He added that the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2 or Global Goal 2) of the United Nations aims to achieve “zero hunger” because the United Nations (2017) report shows that one in every nine people goes to bed hungry each night which included 20 million people currently facing the risk of famine in some countries”.
According to him, SDG 2 has faced several threats towards its progress, most especially in 2019 and 2020 with the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. He added that the pandemic and lockdown has placed a huge amount of pressure on agricultural production, disrupted global value and supply chain and resulted into social and economic disruption which raised issues of malnutrition and inadequate food supply to households with the poorest of them all gravely affected.
Professor Oluwamukomi said his contribution to value addition for sustainable food and health security include discovery of legumes to possess high protein content and a good amino acid with adequate levels of lysine, sulfurous amino acids, and tryptophan. He said legumes provide a range of essential nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, dietary fibers, minerals, and vitamins.
The Isan Ekiti born don and one-time Principal Lecturer at the Rufus Gina Polytechnic, Owo said there is a significant relationship between value addition and food processing. According to him, food processing is the process of transforming a food raw material into products, while value addition is a means of adding nutrients and/or other ingredients to the product to increase its value. He said “in my research effort to improve the nutritional qualities of local food items, I found out that using the appropriate method of processing and preservation will influence the quality and final product.”
He emphasized the importance of storage stability and shelf-life prediction in value addition programs. He said shelf life is the finite length of time after which the product stored under specific packaged and environmental condition becomes unacceptable or unsuitable for use or consumption. According to him, the aim of shelf-life prediction is not to produce the best shelf stable product but to formulate the shelf stable product that is possible and at minimum cost to the producer.
The don, currently the Pro Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Kogi State called on governments to invest more in agricultural and food value chain through increase in budgetary allocation to agriculture annually. Similarly, he asked for provision of more funds for research in Nigerian universities, polytechnics, and research institutes for the development of more robust agriculture and food value chain. He added that Nigerian students should be more exposed to practical and industrial training.
Other recommendations by the don include increase food and nutrition intervention programmed with collaboration with international bodies like the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); encouragement, mobilization and organization of food safety and health security campaigns to educate people on the importance of food safety and health security; appropriate legal framework for the proper implementation of the food safety regulations and control.
He also urged government to tackle holistically the issue of herdsmen/farmers clashes, kidnapping and banditry which have increased the cost of living because many farmers have abandoned their farms due to insecurity of lives and properties.
The Chairman at the event and Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development, Professor Philip Oguntunde described the topic as apt with the global challenge of food insecurity. He said the lecture has further educated farmers on how to manage their produce for further yields and profit.
He described the lecturer as a veteran in his field who has added value to academic development locally and globally.