Ezenekwe Elochukwu, a student of Agricultural and Bio-resources Engineering of UNIZIK, led the research team that discovered the means of recycling abundant polythene wastes, common in landfills and streets of cities in the country for money.
Elochukwu said the project would also clean up the heaps of polythene found on street corners, where they cause environmental pollution and flooding. According to him, the use of greenhouse structures in crop production would offer several benefits that range from increased yield to more efficient water utilization, less use of harmful chemicals, year-round farming and protection from adverse climatic conditions.
“But such structures are not utilized by farmers in the country due to the fact that conventional greenhouses in the country are made of glass covering and steel framework, which make them very expensive and out of the reach of local farmers. In reality, the very few greenhouses in the country are largely restricted to research centres, where they are usually used for purposes other than crop production,” he said.
The research team, known as Peace Advocacy and Sustainable Development Outreach (PASDO) and another group, BENUWATTS, are working jointly to develop suitable low-tech greenhouse structures by sourcing and using locally available and affordable materials in place of the steel frame and glass covering used in conventional structures.
As an alternative to glass, Elochukwu and his team have developed cheaper and more flexible material, which incorporates considerable percentage of waste polythene in the production process [whilst still exhibiting UV-blocking properties and acceptable levels of Photosythetic Active Radiation (PAR) – the actual wavelength range of solar radiation responsible for plant growth]
The research findings, in addition to helping to curb greenhouse emissions from the usual burning of polythene wastes, would likely lead to a revolution in the vegetable and horticulture industry, and thousands of jobs for the youthful population of Nigeria who can be empowered with affordable Greenhouse Kits to enable them engage in horticulture and fresh-produce farming.
The team told our reporter that boosting horticulture and vegetable production in Nigeria is especially important because, aside the fact that local production capacity of vegetables is still insufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of the over 160 million inhabitants of the country, international cargo companies, including DHL, have continuously lamented lack of fresh agricultural produce to fly back to the large European markets after airplane delivery services to the country.
For proper sponsorship and execution of the three-year-research work, the two organisations have jointly formed the Greenhouse Agriculture Coalition to ensure that the research findings did not end up only in classrooms and research labs.
It was also gathered that Benuwatts Company would begin local manufacture of greenhouse kits. “The kits will be quite affordable, and shall comprise of the greenhouse structure, water tank and irrigation system, improved seedlings, and one year free customer support,” a member of the group told Campus Sun.
It is estimated that the process involved – from waste collection through to the treatment, manufacture and usage of the kits, and even up to export – could engage over a hundred thousand direct and indirect workers across the country.
The researches said the programme, when successfully implemented would reduce incidence of flooding in towns and cities. According to them, Nigeria lost an estimated N2.29tn (National Emergency Management Agency), to flood disasters in past years.
“We hope that collecting and recycling them will keep the polythene wastes from ending up in drainage gutters,” the group said. (The Sun News)