By Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
Ugu (Fluted Pumpkin) farmers under the auspices of Pumpkins Growers, Processors and Marketing Association of Nigeria (PUGMAN) North-east zone have stated that the commodity (Ugu) if properly harnessed is capable of contributing to the country’s foreign exchange earnings, reduce the rate of unemployment as well as serve as panacea to Nigeria’s economic woes.
To this end, the farmers have given assurances of their preparedness to embark on massive Ugu farming in commercial quantities in the North-east sub-region.
Speaking during PUGMAN’s National Stakeholders Meeting and Awareness/Enlightenment campaign for the zone held at BSADP, BauchiÂ Saturday, its National President Uche Ihugba said: “Pumpkin is continually becoming a fast growing crop for Nigeria’s producers and want to continually promote the production for consumption at home as well as for export purposes.”
Ugu is a tropical vine plant native to West Africa but cultivated in various parts of southern Nigeria. It is widely cultivated for its nutritious leaves, which are used mainly as vegetables in several local soups as well as for health purposes.
According to him, “To date, Ugu is one of the best crops we plant. Itâ€™s easy to plant, grows very fast and ready to harvest in just six weeks. The beauty of Ugu is its cashflow. From the time it reaches maturity, you can harvest and sell it every week.”
While highlighting the various socio-economic and medical importance of pumpkin in the society, Ihugba urged the three tiers of government to beam their searchlight on harnessing the potentials in the growing, production and marketing of the product on a large scale in their quest to transform the socio-economic and health development of the nation.
Earlier in his address, the association’s vice-president for the zone, Alhaji Samaila Burga, who is also a big time farmer, expressed the commitment of pumpkin farmers in the area to embark on large scale farming of Ugu in commercial quantities for both consumption and for economic benefits.
According to him, “With the massive sensitisation and awareness campaign embarked upon by PUGMAN, I believe Ugu farmers are going to reorganise themselves and make it a profitable venture, so I urge those of you attending this meeting to go back and re-train your members in all the local government areas well and also reorganise them so that our Ugu meet international standard for easy marketability.”
Also contributing, another big time farmer and Chairman, Gombe State House of Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services, Hon. Bature Usman Gwani, noted that with the landmass in the North-east, farmers have the capacity to grow the Ugu plant in large quantities and produce for local consumption and for export purposes.
Gwani, who is also a consultant surgeon, said: “Since agriculture in Nigeria is a branch of the nation’s economy providing employment for over 35 per cent of the population, the mass unemployed youths roaming the streets should take advantage of the benefits derivable from the growing, processing and marketing of pumpkin and engage in Ugu farming.
“Our teeming unemployed youths should go into Ugu farming especially that the agricultural sector is being transformed by commercialisation at the small, medium and large scale enterprises level.”