CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background of the Study The oil palm (Elaeisguineensis) is one of the most important economic crop in the tropics. Oil palm is the most important source of vegetable oil of all oil bearing plants, and is the highest yielding too (Kolaosoye, 2005; Odior, 2007). This important economic tree is generally agreed to have originated from the tropical rain forest region of West Africa. The main belt runs through the southern latitudes of Cameroon down to Nigeria and through Togo. The oil palm is indigenous to the Nigerian coastal plain, having moved inland as a staple crop. In Nigeria, oil palm cultivation is part of the way of life of most people living in the southern part of the country. It is like their culture (FAO, 2007). Additionally, every part of the oil palm can be put to advantageous use, such as palm ribs and fronds for roofing and thatching, brooms, baskets, wickerwork and mats while its residue can be used for fire lighting and as energy source, and is particularly suitable for low-cost and low-technology activities. Due to all these uses, it offers an almost unlimited scope for employment and thus a source of livelihood and income for many (Oladipo, 2008). According to Ayodele (2010) oil palm production provides jobs for at least 1.8 million Nigerians. The increase in demand for oil palm products has necessitated the improvement of the crop in various ways, from its method of cultivation to its harvesting and processing, in harmony with recommended agronomic practices. For this harmony to be realized, the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) was established in Benin City, Edo State in 1981 to genetically improve oil palms. This involves improving its agronomic practices, including planting, cultivation and harvesting techniques, to develop control measures for pests and diseases of palms, processing, preservation, storage and utilization of palm products among other functions that NIFOR is committed to carry out (Ayeniet al., 1996). Food and Agriculture Organization (2003) asserted that due to the economic importance of the oil palm as a high-yielding source of edible and technical oils, the oil palm is now grown as a plantation crop in most countries with high rainfall like Nigeria. The oil palm is said to be rich in oil production, and one of its products namely palm oil, is in high demand world-wide. This fact is made clearer by what is stated in (www.tropentag.de/2003) that: 90% of the palm oil produced finds its way into food products, with industrial uses accounting for the other 10% of palm oil produced. For instance, palm oil is used in a wide variety of food products such as margarine and cooking oil. Over the last four decades, palm oil has been the driving force in the world of edible oil and fats (Ugwu, 2009). He further opined that palm oil is endowed with good technical attributes and economic advantage as one of the most produced and consumed oil. Palm oil is also said to beckon on its users by its price and technical superiority among multitude of edible oil applications due to its availability all year round (Ugwu, 2009). For the palm oil processing industry to sustain this competitive edge, continued research is very crucial in regard to appropriate processing technology to pave the way forward in shaping the future of the palm oil industry. However, in Nigeria, 80% of palm oil processors comes from dispersed smallholders who harvest semi-wild palm fruits and use manual processing techniques, a processing technique that is labour intensive and highly inefficient, with a low palm oil extraction rate and high free fatty acid (ffa) content that can be up to 30% in some instances (Orewaet al., 2009; Ugwu, 2009). From 2000-2008, Nigeriaâs palm oil production increased, but still unable to meet up with local demand how much more, global demand (www.crnindia.com). Nigeria was one of the worldâs exporters of palm oil in the 60s, but today can no more meet up with local demand for palm oil; rather she is now a net importer of the product. 1.2 Problem Statement Nigeria is the third largest producer of palm oil in the world, yet she imports palm oil to meet her domestic demand. Nigeriaâs goal therefore, should be to meet the domestic demand and if possible, compete with other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia known as the leading countries in palm oil processing (Ayodele, 2010). In line with this, the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) has made various efforts as a research institute to improve the processing of palm oil in Nigeria. NIFOR, for instance, had made some efforts to improve on the traditional milling methods by producing Small-Scale Palm oil Processing Equipment (SSPE) (Ayeniet al., 1996; Ugwu, 2009) which could remove the tedium and drudgery, and improve the quality of the palm oil extracted (FAO, 2005; Odior, 2007). Observably, most literatures either focus on the labour intensiveness of traditional method of palm oil processing, along with its low quality and high free fatty acid content (Ayeniet al., 1996; Olagunju, 2008; Ugwu, 2009) or are silent about the efficiency of traditional method of palm oil processing. The Food and Agricultural Organization (1984) however, puts it at between the rates of 20% to 30% of oil extraction when using the traditional method. On the other hand, Orewa (2009) and Wahid et al. (2010) opined that traditional methods, which use rural techniques, are primitive, labour intensive and highly inefficient, producing negligible quantities of low quality and unstable palm oil with a limited shelf life. Orewa (2009) further showed that traditional methods in Nigeria, on the average, yield about 4% crude palm oil of fresh fruit bunch (FFB) compared to 18% - 23% achieved by industrial and intermediate scale technologies. This means that 80% of the oil that could potentially be recovered is never recovered and therefore goes to waste (Wahid et al., 2010). Additionally, Nigeriaâs extraction rates, in comparison with other countries of the world, are very low. It was rated 18%, as against 25% in Thailand and 90% in Malaysia (WRM, 2001; Chavalparit, 2006). Small scale farmers in Nigeria, produce over 80% of the total production of palm oil, using traditional methods. However, the traditional methods usually yield high rate of free fatty acid (FFA) that can be as high as between 5% - 30%; as against 5% or less, which is the internationally acceptable standard (Orewaet al., 2009; Ayodele, 2010). They further assert that the high rate of FFA occur as a result of using traditional processing method, where bunches are kept for about 7-9 days or even more to allow for the fruits to get loosened from bunches before processing. This delay causes a build-up of FFA (Orewaet al., 2009; Ayodele, 2010). Additionally, processors level of adoption of the recommended technologies in the study area is not known. Factors influencing their decision on either to adopt the new technologies or not, is not known also. This study revealed factors influencing processorsâ decision on adoption of the recommended technologies. An investigation was carried out to ascertain the constraints associated with processing activities in order to identify areas in which processors require assistance and empowerment to enable them adopt the recommended processing technologies and if possible, own them. It was also observed that there are no extension agents in these communities to inform and guide these processors in their use of the processing machines. Therefore, one is tempted to ask, from where do these processors get their awareness of the use of these machines? In order to examine these issues, the following research questions were put forward: i. what are the socio-economic characteristics of palm oil processors in the study area? ii. what are their sources of information? iii. what is the level of adoption of recommended palm oil processing technologies in the study area? iv. what are the factors influencing adoption of the recommended palm oil processing technologies? v. what are the effect(s) of adoption of recommended palm oil processing technologies on output and income of respondents vi. what are the constraints faced by the respondents in adoption of recommended palm oil processing technologies?