Nigeria Can Achieve Food Security – Varsity Don
The Director of the University’s Biotechnology Centre, Professor Olufunmilayo Adebambo, has said that the country will be better positioned to address the food and security challenges bedeviling it, if Biotechnology is adequately funded and adopted. According to her, Biotechnology, which is the technology that is applicable to life; whether dead or alive because the samples of any individual or organism can be used to develop, improve, rate and evaluate their performance.
She said through Biotechnology, the Centre had been able to micro-propagate and multiply plant-lets. “From the single cutting of cassava, you can generate thousands using the micro-propagation method, same with yam, plantain, pineapple and we have been doing that for plantain and pineapple”. On the activities of the Centre and its achievements so far, the Director disclosed that at the Tissue Culture Laboratory, plant-lets are micro-propagated and multiplied.
She noted that “Tissue Culture Laboratory alone could truly supply plants to millions of farmers, if we really invest into plant tissue culture and micro-propagation because from a sucker of plantain, we can generate thousands of suckers, which is put in the greenhouse and then we can multiply it, to be distributed to farmers and they can easily get it at cheaper rates rather than plucking suckers from all over but with micro-propagation, we have already screened them for quality and if we have the full complement of this, the University will really be in money”, while requesting for fund to construct a greenhouse for the Biotechnology Centre.
Professor Adebambo disclosed that the Centre had assisted many people over time to analyse samples of sachet water, adding that “every year, we run about five workshops because we want people to come in, to know and understand what Biotechnology is all about. Last year, we didn’t get much but this year, we had to reduce the cost and we got more of our students to come around and the few of them that came from outside, they were surprised because they didn’t know that we were doing these in FUNAAB. Not only that, this one had exposed them to what they can do in the future because this is supposed to be a money-spinning centre, if only we knew it in Nigeria.”
“Students, scientists have been coming from all over Nigeria to this place, from the Lagos State University (LASU), University of Lagos (UNILAG), from University of Nigeria (UNN) and the River State University of Science and Technology (RSUST). They sometimes sleep here to run their samples. Last year, we were able to generate about N4million for this Centre, although we budgeted for about N2million. At the end of last year, we decided to budget N2.5million for the Chemistry Laboratory downstairs and N2.5million for the Biotechnology Laboratory upstairs and I think by August or September, we had made over N5million”.
Highlighting some of the achievements so far made by the Centre, Professor Adebambo disclosed that the University has six lines of improved local chickens, adding that she started the project in 1994 and by 2004, when she went for an exhibition in Abuja with 46 other Universities, FUNAAB got the award for the best indigenous poultry breed and retained the award in 2005, where it competed with 53 other Universities. She said whenever the University officials travelled, they always went with one-day, one-week, two-week and four-week chicks and would end up selling all the chicks as they were in high demands.
Giving an update on the indigenous poultry breed, Professor Adebambo said through the Bills and Melinda Gates Foundation, she had a vision to empower rural household with indigenous chickens and bring people out of poverty, noting that the University had consistently and persistently been developing the local chicken. From the local chicken that produced just 40-60 eggs in the backyard yearly, they had been developed to produce 200-250 eggs per annum and instead of the 39 grams egg, they now produce between 55-60 grams egg.
The Director further disclosed that instead of the white eggs, the local breeds now produce pink and brown eggs, saying that although some of them still lay white eggs and instead of the mature weight of point nine kilogram, the birds at maturity weigh as much as 1.2-1.5 kilograms, so that at the end of the day, point of lay birds cannot be differentiated from the exotic birds.
“With the funding from the Bills and Melinda Gates Foundation, we now have the white, black, brown and the ash-line of the indigenous breed. There are also two mid-lines, which has 25 or 75 percent local blood. They are meat-lines, they are bigger with tougher meat than the imported stock. We can hardly meet the request of our customers here and other Universities have been taking our stocks. The University of Ilorin bought about 300 day-old-chicks last year and Landmark University recently bought about 300 chicks from us because our day-old-chicks are Parent Stock (PS). If you are to buy PS outside, it goes for N750 for a day-old but we sell our own here for N300 because these are Nigerian chickens for the Nigerian people”.
Professor Adebambo said when she was the Dean, College of Animal Science and Livestock Production (COLANIM) of the University, she was able to buy a 2,000-capacity incubator, which hatched about 500 eggs weekly but with the Bills and Melinda Gates Foundation, she had been able to acquire 114,000-capacity incubator for the University. She advocated for more funds to be allotted into housing so that the University could generate more birds and be able to supply the whole of the southwest.
The Director said she was also looking forward to a time when the University would have an egg processor, which would give eggs longer shelf-life, whereby eggs could be brought in and processed into dry powdery form and packaged like milk for school children or be used to make vegetable soup to provide the protein requirements for the populace. She also recommended that the University considered having a processing centre, whereby live-birds are purchased either from the University or brought in from outside and are dressed for individuals at a token fee, rather than depending on imported chickens, in which they do not know their shelf-life.