Cassava plastic production: ECOSOCC woos Indonesia on youth training

African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU ECOSOCC) Nigeria chapter has commenced partnering with the Republic of Indonesia to train Nigeria youths on the production of bio-degradable cassava plastic. JOHN OBA examines its proposed impact.

As part of its mandate to spearhead the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063 — a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years and also seek to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development, the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU ECOSOCC) Nigeria chapter is partnering with the Republic of Indonesia to train Nigeria youth on production of biodegradable cassava plastic.

The Council’s vision is multifaceted as it tends to use the project to commence sensitisation of Nigerians on the need to stop the use of traditional plastic produced from petroleum residue which takes between 500 to 1000 years to degrade, thereby aggravating the climate condition, while also creating multi-sectorial employment opportunities for thousands of youth.

Danger of Plastic 
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, plastic waste causes over $13 billion to Marine, even as the overall natural capital cost of plastic use in the consumer goods sector each year is $75 billion. 

The reports also revealed that everything living thing suffers as a result of plastic. Tourism, recreation, business, the health of humans, animals, fish and birds have all been affected because of plastic pollution, while the financial damage continuously being inflicted is inestimable.

Also, toxic chemicals leach out of plastic are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all humans which leads to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments. Yet 33% of all plastic — water bottles, bags and straws — are used just once and thrown away and this cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces

Worst still, is the fact that plastic is poisonous to food items, especially sea food. Researchers have found that even plankton which is the tiniest creatures in the oceans, are eating microplastics and absorbing their hazardous chemicals. 

Contaminated plastics when ingested by marine species present a credible route by which the POPs can enter the marine food web.

Due to this, countries are thinking out of the box to find solution to the menace of plastic through innovations like the Cassava plastic, and Nigeria can not be an exception as Nigeria seas and ocean are filled with huge quantity of plastic that has further worsen the effects of climate change on humanity.

Effects of Climate change in Nigeria

Nations across the globe are all unanimous on the subject of climate change, hence, the various efforts at mitigating its impacts, especially on  key economic sectors of the world, and countries like Nigeria is not an exception. 

Caused by both natural and human factors, the effects of climate change in Nigeria has resulted in deforestation, air pollution, and poor agricultural outputs because of bush burning, excess and wrong application of inorganic fertilizer which degrades the land, burning of fossil fuels, urbanisation, industrialisation, inefficient transport system, among others are all effects of climate change.

Experts have also agreed that the recurrent clashes between herdsmen and farmers, due to the problem of rainfall variability, are indirect effects of climate change. This, according to findings have mutated in the destruction of investments and several lives in states like Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Ogun and several others.

There are increasing rates of natural disasters and extreme weather. No doubt, the northern part of Nigeria is becoming more of a drought-prone area, with an advancing desert that is now encroaching southward, making land in most northern states uncultivable. The rate of flooding among other challenges is also alarming with thousands of lives, agribusiness and property lost in 2017 and 2018, in Benue, Kano, Lagos and other states. 

This makes the proposed ECOSOCC-Indonesia project of great value and timely.

Cassava production in Nigeria

Nigeria is rated as the world’s largest producer of cassava, with states like  Imo, Anambra, Kogi, Cross River, Enugu, Ogun, Ondo, Taraba, Benue, Delta, and Edo, as major cultivators, yet Nigeria has not been able to harness the great potentials of the cassava value chains beyond the domestic uses as over 80% of cassava produced in Nigeria goes for local consumption leading to post harvest wastages, while some countries across the world are taking advantage of cassava products.

Therefore, introducing such innovation in Nigeria will reduce beyond imagination post harvest losses for cassava that is gradually becoming endemic.

Cassava plastic

Several reports have revealed that an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide annually, which gives insight into the huge markets value of cassava plastic. This is one of the ways to mitigate the damage petroleum-based plastic materials are causing. 

Speaking at the weekend, during a courtesy call to his office by the AU ECOSOCC team led by the two Nigeria representatives, Dr. Tunji Asaolu and Mr Oba Olasunkanmi John, the Indonesian Ambassador, who was represented by the Counsellor, Mr Isman Pasha, said his country is ready and willing to partner with ECOSOCC to train Nigerian youth on the production of cassava plastic and other culinaries that could be produced using cassava.

He said cassava plastics are 100% made from renewable bio-based, biodegradable in three years, and can be recycled along with paper, customizable shape and design, and is climate friendly.

He said Indonesia youths are the major producers of these plastics which is the alternative for petroleum-based plastics.

“In Indonesia, we have bio-degradable plastic made out of certified fair trade cassava since we have been making efforts to discourage the use of any petroleum plastics or bags and fact that it is biodegrade doesn’t mean it is weaker. Filled with hot soup or produce from the market, our biodegradable bags are as strong as traditional plastic bags. 

“If we can do it in Indonesia with limited cassava that we have, because we import cassava to arguments the little we have, but Nigeria can do better, you don’t need to import cassava like Indonesia, you have enough, and we believe that if Nigeria can key into this project, other African Countries will follow.

Earlier, Dr. Tunji Asaolu, speaking on behalf of the team said the visit was to build on existing partnership where it left off in 2016, saying Indonesia government offered to support the Council technically and training of it youth, but that the training was called off hence the need to start where it stopped some years ago.

“Our mandate is to make sure that all the decisions regarding the partnership between Africa and Indonesia are to be domesticated at national level of all members states. Nigeria is seen as a leading country in Africa hence a need for it to be step into its leadership positions. 

He therefore proposed that both countries partner on the Council’s National Youth Agriculture Entrepreneurship Development Programmes and n domesticating the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).

He said the cassava plastic project is one of the AU ECOSOCC flagship projects aimed at creating jobs, reducing cassava post harvest wastages, increase food security and mitigating the effects of climate change. 

“This will change the narratives on unemployment in Nigeria since the youth will have no excuses not to work because, armed with the technology with abundant of raw materials available at their disposal at a more cheaper rate, there will be absolutely no ground for failures and we are sure that if the government sees the potential benefits f this, it will make funds available,” he said.


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