Centre For Food and Technology ( CEFTER) at Benue state university has taken the bull by its horns to assist farmers improve on their yields and also halt the menace of post harvest losses and its economic implications. HEMBADOON ORSAR reports.
The Centre For Food and Technology ( CEFTER) at Benue state university which is currently training Masters and Phd students in the area of post harvest losses, recently organised its 2018 CEFTER food exhibition week to enable students of the centre showcase their products produced from locally made crops.
The leader of the centre, Professor Daniel Adezwa explained that the objective of the centre is to conduct research and identify technologies in the same area of post harvest losses that would be useful in controlling loss, storage processing and preservation.
According to him, so far over 442 students have enrolled for the programme out of which 23 are regional students, saying the project’s demand is to cover the whole of West and Central Africa.
“To extend these technology to rural communities that would be useful to farmers, the centre had trained over 4500 full time food handlers, both in the country and outside the country.
“Out of this number, 4000 are cooks that are participating in the current school feeding programme going on in the state.
To also ensure proper hygiene, at camps the centre has also extended the training to about 200 Cameroonian refugees so that they can benefit from good quality cooking and storage of the available food.
Professor Adezwa identified the challenge of international accreditation, as one among many challenges faced by the centre.
“Although we have been able to get accreditation for nine of our programmes, we are still hopeful that we will also get accreditation in the area of food chemistry and food engineering technology through one of our partners, the Liverpool John Moor University.”
Addressing the participants, Professor Adezwa explained that the food exhibition is the third edition carried out by the centre with a total of 137 PGD, MSc and PhD students, grouped into 12 groups and assigned food crops to study and developed products that will add value and reduce post harvest losses.
“CEFTER food week is a students activity aimed at exposing students of the centre to practical problem solving platform, targeting product development from common crops, it is expected that most of the adopted techniques can be extended to farmers and food handlers for use, to enhance output. Novel products if developed can also be produce for both local and international markets”.
According to him, “This year’s food week exhibition is slightly different from the previous two editions because the students have taken a step further to enhance the sustainability, durability and viability of the products produced from various crops.
“The exhibition this year is quite different from the previous two years. The students have improved so much on their products to determine its durability on the shelves and how it can be sustained.”
Professor Adezwa disclosed that plans are underway by the centre to establish a post harvest technology centre that can help in tackling post harvest losses.
“Our desire here in the centre is to give out our best to the consumers and as well empower farmers and food producers to add value to their produce and products to ensure food security of the state and country”.
Also speaking,former Attorney General and minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa advocated for the creation of faculty of Agriculture at the Benue state University, to enable it access the 100 million dollar funds earmarked for cassava processing by Bill Gates Foundation.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria,who declared in 2018 the ceremony open, lamented a situation where a state with the appellation of the food basket of the nation will deny its only University the faculty of Agriculture.
The former minister also advocated for the conversion of Akperan Orshi College of Agriculture, Yandev, which is the only Agricultural institution of the state to Faculty of Agriculture to enable the state harness its full potentials of the food basket of the nation.
Also speaking, the state coordinator of Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Samson Makolo promised to collaborate with the centre for effective standardisation of all products produced by it.
Earlier, the vice chancellor of the university, Professor Msugh Kembe, had commended the support of the world Bank in assisting the state to control the challenges of post-harvest losses.
“I am urging the centre not to deviate from its core mandate of teaching research and extension in post sciences to enhance agricultural productivity, industrial output for socio-economic development of Nigeria and Africa”.
The centre also has the mandate to develop a critical mass of well- trained African students to handle the control of post harvest losses as well as identify technologies that would be used to help farmers to also improve on their yields.
Some of the participants who spoke to our correspondent including the cassava group leader, Victoria Nwudili, yam group leader, Moses Iortile and rice group, Gloria Gbaa all expressed happiness on what the centre has imparted on them so far, adding that they are being able to use locally made crops to produce different species of products.
All the 12 participating groups were given ample opportunities to showcase their processed products.
Our correspondent observed that so many products from locally made crops were processed into different products, like face mask from fish, Y- bread from yam, rice yoghurt, soy yoghurt, tomatoe juice, and pepper cubes were displayed during the food week by various groups while the water melon group won the star prize.
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