The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) has said that at least 2,000 unemployed youths from various communities in Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State have been trained and empowered in mushroom and ginger production and value chain.
The empowerment programme, which is in collaboration with the member representing Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency, Ossai Nicholas Ossai, is in its third cycle for the 2019 session in which 100 youths recently benefited from a one-week training.
The training workshop took the trainees through practical, step-by-step procedures in production techniques, value addition, record keeping and economics of production and marketing.
Executive director/CEO of NIHORT, Dr. Abayomi Olaniyan, said the research institute had the mandate to research into genetic improvement, production, processing, utilisation and marketing of fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants and spices.
Represented by Dr. Stephen Afolayan, Olaniyan said mushroom and ginger were mandate crops of the institute, stressing that the crops had immense potential for sustainable livelihoods and national economic development.
Olaniyan assured the participants of the readiness of the institute to make available its expertise and liaise with stakeholders to promote the trainees’ business.
According to him, mushroom is an important food item that plays a significant role in human health, nutrition and disease control, adding that it is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Olaniyan said mushroom cultivation can help reduce poverty and strengthen livelihoods becoming a fast-yielding and nutritious source of food; he declared that mushroom cultivation could provide opportunities for improving the sustainability of small farming systems through the recycling of organic matter.
He said Nigerian ginger varieties were acclaimed to be of superior quality and outstanding flavour preferred in the international market. He also noted that ginger-based products have a wide range of applications in many industries like food processing, pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, meat canning and confectionery, among others.
A media aide to the federal lawmaker, Chibuzor Okereke, lauded the vision of his principal for investmenting in human capital development.
“The visionary leadership of Nicholas Ossai, who believes that the sum total of his political involvement is bringing representation home to the people, believes in human capital development, that if you are involved in government, you must bring happiness to the people,” he said.
Responding to a question, Okereke said the emphasis on agriculture was informed by the need to diversify the economy.
According to him, the training programme was meant for 30 per cent success rate, adding that a technical team had been set up to monitor the activities of beneficiaries in line with the project.
He said: “Most of the trainees have formed cooperatives and have returned the seed capital they received. From our records, many trainees have become employers of labour.
“We have constituted a technical team at the constituency office to monitor activities of beneficiaries. We are projecting about 30 per cent success rate in terms of those who, after participating, actually start up in business.”
A participant, 23-year-old Miss Busat Ayuba, said the programme would help to empower youths, stressing that farming was no longer for peasants, due modern techniques.
She said: “I hope to set up a business in mushroom and ginger production to enhance my income as a student and hopefully start a business in a few years’ time.”