A mushroom plant scientist, Prof. Sami Ayodele, has urged the Federal Government to create an opportunity for farmers to embrace mushroom cultivation to serve as alternative means of farming and income generation for the country.
Ayodele made the call in Abuja on Thursday while delivering the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) 22nd inaugural lecture with the topic: “Mushrooms: Friends or Foes.”
He said it was imperative for the government to sensitise citizens on the benefits of mushroom cultivation for wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
“It is imperative for the government to commence elaborate sensitisation of citizens about mushroom cultivation for wealth creation and poverty alleviation since it has a lot to contribute to the economy of the nation,” he said.
Ayodele, Professor of Botany, Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, NOUN, said the country could earn as much as one trillion naira annually if the sector could be properly developed.
He noted that the mushroom sub-sector and its value chain could provide 30 million skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled jobs for the teaming unemployed graduates, vulnerable youths and women.
“Mushroom cultivation could have great economic and social impacts by generating income and employment for both women and youths, particularly in rural areas of developing countries.
“For instance, in China, it was estimated that the export value of mushrooms was about $1.6 billion and the total employment in the mushroom industry was over 30 million people.
“Out of this population, only 10 per cent are actual mushroom farmers, others fall within sectors such as food, beverage manufacturing, trading and management, transport, marketing, retailing, export and so on.
“The global demand for mushrooms has continued to increase significantly according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report, while the market for mushrooms is huge and growing exponentially.
“The world mushroom market as at the end of 2020 stood at about $45.3 billion with China producing the highest.
“In Africa, only South Africa, Madagascar, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Algeria and Morocco grow mushrooms on a large scale, while Nigeria, the giant of Africa, does not feature in African mushroom production scale, not to talk about world production scale,” Ayodele said.
He, however, cautioned that care must be taken to ensure poisonous species were not mistaken for edible ones when collecting wild mushrooms.
Ayodele who is also the Director in charge of NOUN Abuja Model Study Centre (AMSC), noted that toxins from poisonous mushrooms could cause extensive cellular damage, affect the autonomic system and the central nervous system.
He added that toxins from poisonous mushrooms could cause gastrointestinal discomfort.
Ayodele, therefore, urged the government to establish a national mushroom germplasm centre where documentation of all available edible and medicinal mushrooms in different regions of the country would be housed.
“There should be regular seminars, symposia, conferences and workshops by the mushroom scientists to sensitise the Nigerian public about the new trend in mushroom cultivation and its potential for food security.
“Soft loans should be granted to interested individuals particularly unemployed youths and graduates with training in mushroom science to establish small-scale mushroom farms to reduce unemployment.
“The pharmaceutical industries in Nigeria should exploit the medicinal potential of the bio-diversities of medicinal mushrooms in Nigeria for medicinal formulation,” he said.
The Vice-chancellor of NOUN, Prof. Olufemi Peters, while applauding Ayodele for his vision and lecture promised to establish a laboratory in the institution dedicated to mushroom research.
Peters tasked Ayodele to set up a research group for mushroom to enable him get the institution’s support.
He urged the government, especially the incoming administration, not to allow the research to end up as an academic exercise.
“I wish him (Ayodele) more success in his career and especially as I have made the pledge, I will be awaiting some proposals on my table.
“For all of us here, especially our professors and senior academics, this institution will count on you to continue to give us shining examples on how we march forward to research,” Peters said.