Osun State University, Osogbo, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with two Canadian universities for carrying out research work on 'Sustainable Production and Utilisation of Under-utilised Nigerian Vegetables to Enhance Rural Food Security'.
The project is being jointly funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) under the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF).
Apart from the Chief Investigator from UniOsun, the project involves a researcher from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, while University of Manitoba and Cape Breton University, both from Canada, are also part of the work, which has budget of a sum of $2.9 million.
Members of the team of investigators involve in the project are Prof. Clement Akinboye, from UniOsun, who is the Chief Investigator, Prof. Wole Akinremi from Manitoba University, Canada, Prof. Duro Oyedele from OAU, and Prof. Thomas Bouman from Cape Breton University, Canada.
Speaking at the ceremony, which took place at the main campus of the university in Osogbo where the MoU was signed, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Bashiru Okesina, said the project is being implemented in five states of Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo in South West Nigeria and through some of the salient results obtained since the project commenced about two years ago, 18 indigenous leaf vegetables that are eaten across the South-West Region have been identified.
Okesina stressed that after 4,600 vegetable producers, marketers and consumers spread across 72 communities in the four selected states were interviewed, results showed that 70 per cent of the producers are female, while 80 per cent of the processors and marketers are also women.
Also, as part of the results obtained, based on the indigenous knowledge from the farming communities in addition to scientific method that relies on multi-dimensional analyses (MDA), the Vice Chancellor said six high premium underutilized indigenous vegetables in South West Nigeria have been selected and are being researched in more detail to better define their agronomic practices, nutritional and economic values.
In on-farm experimentations at six locations in the four selected states, which involved 553 farmers, Okesina said as a result of improved technologies and with project support for planting materials, fertilisers, irrigation pumps, the farmers have expanded areas under cultivation even when the on-farm experimentation has not ended.
According to him, a result of the progress made on the project, (IDRC) one of the donors for the research work, approved the training of 12 members of staff of UniOsun at the University of Manitoba and Cape Breton, University Canada in 2012 and 2013.
He said those that benefitted from the training were drawn from the College of Agriculture and Science, who spent one month each to acquire modern skills in field research, laboratory operations, data analyses, results presentation and general research management.
The two Canadian universities, having assessed the performance of the project implementation in Nigeria as well as the performance of the trainees, Okesina said, decided to document the relationship with UniOsun in form of MoU.
Assuring investors that the amount budgeted for the project would be expended judiciously, the Chief Investigator of the project and a lecturer of Osun state University, Osogbo, Akinbooye stated that strict accounting measures are been observed in the disbursement of funds, adding that vegetables was chosen as object of research work because of its nutritional value and economic benefits of its cultivation for farmers.
Also a member of the research team, Akinremi, said apart from N18 million laboratory equipment that UniOsun will get as a result of its involvement in the project, the institution and its staffers that are part of the research work will also get international exposure and training and urged the university to ensure quick release of funds to the research teams to enable timely completion of the project.