1.1 Background of the study
Fluted pumpkin is a very important vegetable that is popular in West Africa. It belongs to the family Telfaria Occidentalis Hook F. cucurbitaceae. It is a leafy vegetable that produces fruits. (Enabulele and Uavbarhe, 2001). Tindall, (1989) defined leafy vegetables as herbaceous plants used for culinary purposes. They are used to increase the dietary quality of soups. The fruit on full maturity has a weight of 10kg. and an appearance of 10 distinctive longitudinal ribs on the surface. It is popular in West Africa. The edible part of this vegetable are the large red seeds, leaves and young shoots used for traditional soup. Protein rich seed can be roasted or grounded for use in porridge. The flesh of the fruit has good oil content which can be used as cooking oil. Although fluted pumpkin is a minor oil crop it possesses healing properties that have been found effective in boosting blood levels and also in maintaining bone mineral density in older men when more of the seeds are consumed. It’s important role in ensuring food security for the populace has not been overlooked by the present administration through the 7 point agenda. Fluted pumpkin consumption has improved over the years and it is an important component of the daily diets of Nigerians (Okoli and Mgbeogu, 1983). Due it’s hypolipidemic action, it lowers blood cholesterol and thus protects from a large range of associated complications like cardiac problems, hypertension and diabetes Margret, (2011).
The joint FAO/WHO 2003 consultation on diet, nutrition and prevention of chronic disease recommended a minimum intake of 400g of leafy vegetables which helps in preventing and managing of nutritional and also health related diseases that are rampant in rural areas. According to Chweya and Denton (2000) the nutritional contribution of fluted pumpkin is essential for good health and growth among lactating mothers. The seed of fluted pumpkin contains essential nutrients in significant amounts which can supplement other foods (Christian and Ejeafehe, 2007). It has been shown that adding fluted pumpkin seeds to diet compares favourably with conventional drugs in reducing inflammatory symptoms of arthritis (Doan, 2008).
According to Koomolafe (1978), the uses of vegetables include: Practical study of crop plants in school gardens, good sources of food, reasonable income by selling the vegetables. Other uses of vegetables have emerged due to recent studies. They include:
Apart from fluted pumpkin, other vegetables produced in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State include water leaf, bitter leaf, green leaf (African spinach), Okro, pepper etc. Fluted pumpkin producers in the study area are faced with challenges of seedbed preparation, seedlings, pest management, fertilization, harvesting, transportation, processing and marketing as other farmers.( Awerosuo, 2008).
The problem assumes more importance as vegetables compete for the scarce farm resources including land, labour and capital. It is therefore necessary to examine and evaluate the economics of fluted pumpkin production in view of the resources constraints by farmers.
1.2 Statement of the Problem. It is estimated that over 90% of the total land cultivated in Nigeria is in the hands of small scale farmers who also account for up to 90% of the total agricultural output (Onokerhoraye, 1995). In Nigeria, the output of fluted pumpkin has not been able to meet the demand for human food not to mention that for livestock feed, as a result of the growing need of vegetables thus the task of producing enough fluted pumpkin pose on increasing challenge (Ojo, 2002).
In most rural communities of Ughelli North Local Government Area where this study is based, traditional agriculture prevails and farming is seen as a way of life rather than a business venture and often these farmers have no knowledge of advanced management techniques, they do not keep proper farm records and depend mainly on family labour. They are also faced with problems like pest and disease attack, high cost of agro-chemical, poor market structure, poor storage facilities, inadequate credit facilities, bad roads, high cost of hired labour, poor infrastructure/transport and land tenure systems problems.
Fluted pumpkin is highly seasonal and the commodity itself is perishable and costly to store. This seasonality in-balance between supply and demand account for at least the price fluctuation and unstable farmers income.
In view of this, this study focuses on analysing the economics of fluted pumpkin production in Ughelli North Local Government Area and profer solutions that will contribute to the policy formation and implementation that will better the lot of fluted pumpkin farmers and most importantly meeting consumer dietary requirements.
1.3 Objective of the study The broad objective of this study is to determine the economics of fluted pumpkin (Telfaria occidentalis Hook. F. Cucurrbitaceae) production in Ughelli North Local government Area of Delta State. The specific objectives are to: