PROBLEM AND PROSPECT OF MELON PRODUCTION. A CASE STUDY OF MOKWA LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN EBONYI STATE
The need to increase and improve on the melon production in the farming system, human diets and health, diversify its uses in industries and other areas cannot be over-emphasized (Oyediran, 2013). The production of melon is constrained by low yield and little knowledge about its nutritive value (Bisognin, 2002). Melon is one of the most economically import- ant vegetable crops worldwide and is grown in both temperate and tropical regions. Melon is a climbing herbaceous crop and has annual trailing vines with nearly round stems-bearing tendrils and circular to oval leaves with shallow lobes. Staminate flowers are borne in axillary clusters on the main stem, and perfect flowers are borne at the first node of lateral branches. Fruits vary in size, shape, rind characteris- tics, and flesh colour depending on variety. Melon is known as Egusi in Yoruba language found in tropical Africa and it is widely cultivated in West Africa (Nige- ria, Ghana, Togo and Benin) and other African Coun- tries for the food in the seeds (Achigan-Dako et al., 2008). Melon plays vital roles in the farming system and in the well-being of West African rural farmers as a good source of energy, weed suppressants and for soil fertilization. It is also used as mulch, leaving high residual nitrogen in the soil after harvesting. Cultivation of melon is sustained in southwestern Ni- geria by its profitability as well as other socio-eco- nomic and cultural values. Production of the crop is more popular because of favourable weather and cli- matic condition as well as abundance of cultivable land which has made the practice of sole and mixed cropping possible in the region. The seed of melon is an excellent source of dietary oil (53.10%), high
in protein (33.80%), and containing higher levels of most amino acids than soybean meal. Melon seeds contain between 30-50% by weight of oil and offer valuable sources of vegetable oil for local and export trade (Oloko and Agbetoye, 2006). The kernels are rich in fatty acids, minerals and proteins. Despite the socio-economic, cultural, agronomic and culinary im- portance of melon, productivity has been on the de- cline in recent time. The percentage yield declines in Nigeria from 103.26% in 2007 to 92.98% in 2008. The melon farmers are constrained by many prob- lems including those of poor access to modern inputs and credit, poor infrastructure, inadequate access to markets, land and environmental degradation, and inadequate research and extension services. Also, there is no research on the effect of decline in melon output on rural households’ livelihood sustainability in southwest, Nigeria where the melon is widely con- sumed in diverse forms, and there are scanty em- pirical studies of factors that impede melon produc- tivity. Even then, smallholder and traditional melon farmers who use rudimentary production techniques, with resultant low yields, cultivate most of the degrad- ed land. It is against this background that this study found it essential to assess and review melon based farming systems so as to enhance its productivity, profitability and sustainability among the rural house- holds in southwest, Nigeria.
Specific objectives are to:
i. ascertain the personal characteristics of mel- on farmers in the study area
ii. identify sources of melon seeds planted by the respondents in the study area
iii. estimate production output of melon in the study area
iv. identify challenges to melon production in the study area