Biofibre waste has been identified as a viable source for generating alternative revenue and promoting wealth creation in Nigeria, in a bid to ensure sustainable development in a recessionary economy.
Faced with dwindling fortunes of crude oil prices at the global market and the concomitant scarcity of foreign exchange which has affected manufacturing and other industrial developments, the federal government has turned its searchlight on economic diversification with a view to establishing a new revenue earner for the nation.
Against this background and other social economic factors the theme of the recent 77th inaugural lecture delivered at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, which was titled, ‘Adding Value to Bio-fibre Wastes: A Lesson from Creation’, was timely and very apt.
The lecture, delivered by a renowned scholar and don in the department of Forestry and Wood Technology, FUTA, Prof. Babatunde Ajayi, was intellectually and economically relevant as a panacea to the nation’s current economic debacle.
Ajayi, who distinguished himself in the industry before venturing into the world of academics, observed that Nigeria’s richness in agricultural produce should be leveraged upon to attain requisite height in wealth creation.
He opined that “the adequate use of agricultural by-products will lead to the reduction in exploitation of dwindling timber resources and forest biodiversity, increase efficiency in wood resources utilisation, prevention of environmental degradation, alleviation of poverty or wealth creation, mitigation of climate change and increase raw materials base for provision of construction works, as well as affordable building materials for core and low cost houses.
The don described bio-fibre wastes as materials considered to be valueless, not priced and of no economic importance or value which are derived from the processing of fibrous materials such as wood, wood climbers, shrubs, bio- composite panel products, any agricultural farm produce and assorted weeds.
He posited that manufacturing processes of new products using the numerous bio-fibre wastes prevalent will create opportunities for job creation, new products development, healthier environment, commerce and sustainable development, and new orientation in industrial movement.
Ajayi highlighted benefits of the use of agricultural residues to include: reduced pressure on forest resources biodiversity, increased innovations in products manufacturing, processing and utilisation, poverty alleviation and increase in farmers income, increase in raw materials supplies to construction industries. Increase food production, and develop innovative science and technology in engineering, architectural designs and building mega structures to mention a few.
The Professor of Wood Products and Biomaterials Technology lamented that the mismanagement of forest resources has given rise to enormous wood wastes generated in forest and wood industries.
This is caused by factors of over exploitation of timber resources without skillful exploitation and harvest techniques, inadequate modern technology in wood wastes management, processing and utilisation, use of obsolete equipment and machinery, high rate of wood products consumption, large quantities of assorted wood wastes generation, encroachment and illegal activities, the high level of poverty in forest communities, and inadequate knowledge of mitigation strategies.
The research effort was inspired by the desire to apply simple, innovative and adaptable technologies in manufacturing; predicated on the suitability of raw materials, desire to increase wood resources utilisation, acceptability of the new products in the markets, desire to protect forest biodiversity, the passion to use valueless agricultural byproducts for value added panels production.
On the way forward, he emphasised the need for government and all stakeholders to bridge the technological gap in intensive commercialisation of research products particularly in tertiary institutions rather than inviting other nations to assist Nigeria in industrial development with their indigenous technology which may not be adaptable, adoptable and incongruity to the country’s collective interests.
He added that there is a viable technological nucleus to propagate the use of 80-90 per cent of forest resources of Ondo State and Nigeria into numerous value-added panel products capable of sustaining the economy and meeting the deficiency in wood products and bio-fibre composites’ demands in construction industries.
He proposed that more advocacy and extension services should be established to motivate public awareness in the production of and use of value-added panel products, noting that several nations had benefited from his research work through participation, presentation and exhibition at various conferences in North America, South America, Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe.
The don advocated that research products in Nigerian Universities should be harvested and properly funded through government and public private partnership in raw material sourcing, processing, manufacturing and products utilisation for industrial growth, using local ingenious, innovative and adaptable technology.
In his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Adebiyi Daramola who was represented by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Tunde Arayela described the lecturer as an erudite Professor and a respected member of Senate who has contributed immensely to research and academic development in his field of specialisation and has served the University assiduously in various capacities.
Daramola said Ajayi attracted collaboration, funds and structures to the University and is at present the Chairman of Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU) of FUTA.
Dignitaries at the event included FUTA management, staff, students, academia, Heads of tertiary institutions, research institutes, international research partners, Representative of the Ondo State Governor, traditional rulers and stakeholders in the education and industrial sectors.