The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) says the agency is poised to use biotechnology tools in developing a sustainable value chain for improved productivity of gum arabic in the country.
Prof. Alex Akpa, the acting Director-General of NABDA, said this at the 1st National Gum Arabic Biosciences and Biotechnology Stakeholders Session on Monday, January 21, 2019 in Abuja.
The theme of the session was “Sustainable Exploitation of Gum Arabic for Socio-economic Development of Nigeria’’ which had in attendance experts from fields such as genomics, phylogeny, agronomy and related areas.
According to him, the goal of the session is to aggregate the perspectives and research results of experts in the fields on the best approach to carry out the exploration and exploitation for gum arabic for socio-economic development.
He said that “potentially, gum Arabic is an export crop that can add value to various sectors of Nigeria’s economy, most especially in the food industry, biomedicine and afforestation, thereby contributing to national Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
“Gum arabic is one of the most important crops in the mitigation of climate, hence the priority needs for its massive cultivation in strategic areas of the country at the time in our history.
“NABDA is positioned to lead the use of biotechnological tools in developing a sustainable value chain of the crop for improved productivity.
“Specifically, shortening the maturity age of the crop, massive production of the seedling using tissue culture, enhancing the quality of the product at molecular level, phylogenetic studies, among others, shall be our priorities.’’
Akpa said that the engagement was expected to lead to the development of actionable work plans on the crop to the benefit of the nation at large.
Dr Nasiru Ibrahim, the acting Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Department, NABDA, said that the meeting was to get all those involved in one way or the other in the field to make impactful inputs that would lead to sustainable research and development of the crop.
He added that gum arabic tree, otherwise known as Desert Gold, was native to Africa and Nigeria was the second largest producer of the crop in the world.
He said: “Gum arabic is used as an additive in beverages, flavour and pharmaceutical companies, textiles, lithography, candy, tannaries, among others.’’
The director, who said that research and development of the crop was only done through traditional improvement methods, noted that successive efforts at harnessing its production and development by the Federal Government went as far back as the times of Late former President Shehu Shagari “with little to show for it.’’
Ibrahim, however, said that NABDA had commenced molecular authentication studies which necessitated the gathering of the experts, both private and in the public sector to make inputs on the way forward.
The National President of Genetics Society of Nigeria, Prof. Kwon Ndong in his paper presentation titled “Beneficial Potential of Biotechnology for gum arabic Seed and Variety Development’’ said all the challenges foreseen in the development of the crop could constitute a research focus.
He added that such focus could be a roadmap for sustainable exploitation of Nigerian gum Arabic for socio-economic development.
Experts who attended the session included Mr Adeleke Ademuyiwa, representive of the Director, Development Finance Department of CBN, Prof. Abubakar Gidado from the North East Technology Centre of Excellence in Maiduguri, Prof. Muhammed Ishiaku from Inistitute of Agricultural Research, ABU, Zaria, and Dr Kenneth Omokhafe from Rubber Research Institute, Benin City.
By Perpetua Onuegbu