By Livinus Nnebedum
The Paw-paw plant botanically in Agric Science and others related natural sciences is also called Carica Papaya. It was believed that its origin was traced to tropical America and West Indies, now commonly found in non-desert areas of West Africa. The plant thrives very well in Nigeria soils. Southern and middle belts of Nigeria are very good for the growing of this plant.
It is very important that government should encourage the production and commercialization of Paw Paw through Research and Extension activities of ADP's and Ministries of Agric because of the numerous advantages and economic cum pharmaceutical uses of the Paw-paw plant. It can equally serve as non-oil export because of its pharmaceutical/economic potentials. Every household should have about two stands of paw-paw plant in front of the compound and another two behind.
Some people may ask why we should boost the production of paw-paw. The reasons are:
1. Medical or pharmaceutical values:
Paw-paw fruits can be processed into the product called papian used in preparation of digestive medicine. It is believed that papain is used in the cure of skin diseases like ringworm and eczema, cancer, bleeding piles, ulcers, anti-cholera etc. In folks medicine it is believed that whenever thunder strikes around the house, paw-paw plant is first to receive the shock. Paw-paw is naturally God given plant. Witches scarcely go where paw-paw plants are growing and it is believed that if you eat paw-paw always it is difficult for witches to attack you.
2. Industrial uses of paw-paw
It can be used in breweries, food and textiles industries as well as cosmetic industries. It is used in food industries for instance, in the manufacture of chocolates and chewing gum. The papaya is important plant enzyme obtained from unripe pawpaw, used as digestive. The processed product called papain is an used in the manufacture of face cream. The Paw-paw plant as a whole namely the leaves, stems, roots, flowers and fruits etc are useful.
From the Agricultural point of view, Paw-paw is seen as non-oil exports, but many investors are not aware of this great economic potential in commercializing the production, processing and marketing of Paw-paw and its products. Nigeria is in dire need of foreign exchange hence the FG continues to lay emphasis on the need for non-oil exports. Paw-paw growing in commercial scale is one of the avenues to achieve that objective.
Nigeria has great potential for the production of papain and the papaya products for both local and foreign markets. For commercial production, the pawpaw plantation of about 100 hectares and more should be established. One can equally take off with about one hectare.
The local, state and FG should boost this area of plant production. Paw-paw production will serve as excellent opportunity to boost Nigerian's non-oil exports. Paw-paw can be grown with other plants/crops by inter-cropping with selected other fruits e.g. banana and legume like groundnuts and Cowpea commonly called Beans (In Igbo: Agwa)
The commercial production of pawpaw will add its quota towards the creation of more employment opportunities, promotion of Agricultural activities, the industrialization of rural areas and provide more raw material for local industries. Further awareness on the values of papaw should be created by Research –Extension programme and mass Media organs. Many people see pawpaw plant growing and neglect them as common back yard plant that is usually self-sown on household refuse dumps. They need to be taken care of wherever they are growing. Improved varieties of pawpaw should be sought for by the government Agric Agencies and push them to the farmers through the Extension activities of ADP's.
The variety called “Dahomey” with roundish fruits do very well. Also another excellent pink-fleshed variety is found locally in Cameroons. The pawpaw plants commence to bear fruits after about nine months from planting in the field and can continue for several years. The fruits, leaves and flowers of pawpaw are good food used as feed in the raising of snails which is another new area on farming with great potential and prospect, but yet unknown by many people. The green pawpaw fruits are used for feeding snails and this help to reduce mortality rate in snail. The snails also feed on the leaves and flowers of pawpaw.
The commercial production of pawpaw will directly or indirectly encourage the production of snails through the provision of enough pawpaw leaves, fruits and flowers as snail food.
Pawpaw fruits are very perishable if not utilized immediately when harvested. Preservation and processing has some answers to the perishable nature of pawpaw fruits. The government, the Food Technologists and the various food industries and pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries using the pawpaw raw materials should channel their resources financially and otherwise towards the processing of pawpaw into various products example papain.
The ball is now in the courts of all investors and the governments to give the pawpaw plant the attention it deserves in our society.
Mr. Livinus Nnebedum is an Expert in Agricultural Extension and Communication and a staff of Anambra State Agricultural Development program (ADP)