Turning waste to wealth
Professor Babatunde Ajayi of the Department of Forestry and Wood Technology, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) has charted the path to wealth creation and sustainable development in a recessionary economy. He was delivering the 77th inaugural lecture of the institution entitled, “Adding Value to Biofibre Waste: A lesson from creation. Below are the high points of the discourse.
That the national economy is undergoing a recession is no longer news. What is however, relevant and of interest to all Nigerians today is how the federal and indeed all the tiers of government can creatively find a way out of the present economic quagmire so that the recession will not climax in a depression. Faced with the bitter reality of the dwindling fortunes of crude oil prices at the global market and the concomitant scarcity of foreign exchange, which has in turn militated against 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.
It is perhaps against this background and other attendant social economic factors that informed the theme of the 77th inaugural lecture delivered recently by Professor Babatunde Ajayi, a renowned scholar and erudite Professor in the department of Forestry and Wood Technology, Federal University of Technology, Akure. The lecture titled, “Adding Value to Biofiber Wastes: A lesson from Creation” was not only stimulating but intellectually and economically relevant as a panacea to the nation’s current economic debacle.
Professor Ajayi, who has 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. it was his opinion 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 utilization, 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 biofiber 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, biocomposite panel products, any agricultural farm produce and assorted weeds. Ajayi posited that various manufacturing processes of new products using the numerous biofiber wastes prevalent will open up a large vista of opportunity for job creation, new products development, healthier environment, commerce and sustainable chains of profitable activities, new orientation in industrial movement and development.
Making a case for wastes to wealth generation in the agricultural sector, he noted that wastes generated from the agricultural sector in Nigeria though, enormous and considered valueless, can serve as raw materials capable of sustaining wealth creation. According to him, “the use of such raw materials derived from agricultural sectors for value-added products manufacturing will kindle and increase the industrial and economic development of the nation and the world at large”.
Ajayi highlighted the 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 every forest and Wood Industries. This is brought about by the factors of over-exploitation of timber resources without skillful exploitation and harvest techniques, inadequate modern technology in wood wastes management, processing and utilization, use of obsolete equipment and machinery in wood harvesting, transportation and conversion mechanism, deficiency in the supply of valuable species, high rate of wood products consumption, large quantities of assorted wood wastes generation, encroachment and illegal activities, the high level and degree of poverty in forest communities, and inadequate knowledge of mitigation strategy of the forests.
This research effort was inspired by the desire to apply simple, innovative and adaptable technologies in manufacturing. This is predicated on the suitability of wide range of raw materials, desire to increase wood resources utilisation, acceptability of the new products in the markets, the desire to protect forest biodiversity, the passion in using valueless agricultural byproducts for value-added panels production.
On the way forward, he emphasised the need for the government and all stakeholders to bridge the technological gap in intensive commercialization of research’s 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 our collective interests. This ingenuous method may also be difficult to interpret and cause aberration to both national, Industrial development and cultural values. He added that there is a viable technological nucleus to propagate the use of 80-90 percent of forest resources of Ondo State and Nigeria into numerous value added panel products capable of sustaining the economy and meet the deficiency in Wood Products and Biofiber Composites demands in construction industries.
He, therefore, 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.