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Background of the Study

Plantain is a crop plant with green leaves and herbaceous stem. Its fruits are  cherished by many people in Abia and Imo States. Rasheed (2003) stated that more than 60 plantain varieties have been identified. The author stressed that these varieties can all be grouped into Giant French, Medium or Small French and Dwarf French plantains. Davies (2006) highlighted species of plantain as Musa sapentium and Musa paradisiaca.
Ogazi (1996) also said that plantain belongs to the Eumusa of the genus Musa (family Musaceae) with species Musa sapentium and Musa paradisiaca.

Agbakoba (2001) highlighted that plantain species are classified either by bunch type, floral size or size of the pseudostem (false stem). The author classified bunch type and floral size based on their characteristics into: french plantain, french horn plantain, horn plantain, false horn plantain and further classified the size of the pseudostem into: giant plantain, medium plantain and small plantain. The specie of plantain mostly grown in the area of study is false horn plantain. It usually produces heavier bunches and greater number of fruits than others. This variety
has similar methods of production like other species.

Plantain as contained in Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report (2003) can be eaten in many forms either ripe or unripe. The author stressed that unripe fruit can be boiled or roasted, eaten with oil or vegetable; it can also be boiled and pounded or mixed with boiled yams and eaten as fufu. The ripe fruits can be eaten alone or fried, used for garnishing rice. Plantain is ground into powder and prepared into food paste called amala which is eaten with suitable soup. Morton (2006) stated that plantain flour can be mixed with wheat flour to make bread, cake and biscuits.

Ekunwe and Ajayi (2010) stated that many people have developed commercial processes of plantain fruits to provide a wide variety of products, such as puree, flour, jam, jelly, chips, crisps, flakes, vinegar and wine. The author further said that though plantain fruit is the main economic product, but parts of the crop plant can be used as food, fodder or as raw materials for the industries used for manufacturing acids. The leaves are also used for wrapping food items. Adewole and Duruji (2010) stated that plantain fruit is composed of 75 per cent liquid of different elements and 32 per cent of carbohydrates.

It contains several vitamins including A, B, C and is very low in protein and fat but rich in minerals particularly iron. Also, it is free from cholesterol, high in fibre and low in sodium. It was reported by Opeke (2006) that plantain is useful in the cure of different diseases such as cardio vascular and kidney problems, dehydration in infants and diabetic patients or people with arthritis and gastro-intestinal ulcers. Skinner (2005) stated that the fruit of plantain is used to treat asthma and bronchitis, diarrhea and constipation; the peel of riped plantain has antiseptic properties and is used to prepare a poultice for wounds or even applied directly to a wound in an emergency; leaves of plantain have been used medicinally for a range of disorder from headache to urinary track infections, the stem juice was considered as a remedy for gonorrhea.

The fruit is easy to carry and peel, it is of great value to sports men and women as a quick and healthy method of replenishing energy. In agriculture, plantain products such as the fruits or peels are used as feed for animals; the peels are used as organic manure by farmers. The dead leaves and pseudostems of plantain are used for mulching or allow to decay to form organic manure. Based on the value of plantain as stated above, the farmer involved in plantain production enterprises cannot be out of business easily.
A farmer is an individual that cultivates a piece of land for the purpose of growing crops and rearing animals. Amusa (2009) defined a farmer as a person who owns or manages an area of land and buildings on it, for growing crops and/or keeping animals.
Uga (2006) said that a farmer is one who owns his farm and some of the resources and he is the one who determines priorities. In situations where the farmer is illiterate, the setting of priorities and determining how to maximize income along with some other welfare objectives may depend on the advice of an extension agent. In the context of this study, a farmer is an individual who cultivates land for the production of plantain at
commercial scale. The farmer obtains relevant farm information from the extension agents in order to be successful in plantain production.
An extension agent in view of Onuoha and Nnadi (2004) is one that is professionally trained to extend improved farming practices to farmers. In the context of this study, an extension agent is a staff of Agricultural Development Progarmme (ADP) charged with responsibilities of disseminating information from agricultural research institute to farmers for implementation and also taking the problems of farmers to the research institute for solutions. These farmers use simple farm tools and family labour in plantain production.

Family labour is sum of work performed by the entire household in the cultivation and processing of plantain. The researcher observed that most of the farmers in the study area grow plantain as intercrop and abandon them in the bush after the harvest of the main crop. The plantain crops in the bush now compete with weeds for nutrients and struggle with pests and diseases for survival which resulted to low productivity. For these farmers to become entrepreneurial in plantain production to meet demand they need to be assessed on what they possessed to determine the existing discrepancy.

Need assessment according to Olaitan and Ali (1997) is a data gathering and analysis process technique which provide information for curriculum modification and programme evaluation. Need assessment focused on concept that the significance needs of any educational system must be determined empirically through data gathering and analysis in order to identify the discrepancy between “what is” and “what it should be.” Therefore, when “what it should be” to be effective is lacking, there is need for improvement.
Improvement is defined by Amusa (2009) as the act of bringing into a more desirable or condition; to become better. Robinson (2006) explained improvement as the development of circumstance in which something is lacking to better standard or quality than before. Galesburg (2007) stated that improved performance on the job by the employee needs to be consistent and continuous in their use of tools, equipment and machines. The author also advocated for adequate supervision of activities of workers by their superiors, which should be coupled with retraining programmes to update knowledge and skills in the use of facilities. Therefore, for farmers in the study area to improve, they need to acquire entrepreneurial competencies for success in plantain production.

Procter (1995) defined need as a condition of lacking or wanting something necessary or very useful. In view of Omeh (2010) a need is something required to fill an existing essential gap. The author further explained need gap as what one requires in order to meet a target standard. This gap needs to be identified to enable adequate provision of relevant retraining programme for the farmers to make them become entrepreneurial proficient in any of the commercial plantain production enterprises.
Entrepreneurship in the view of Tasbulatova (2000) involves new ways of looking at opportunities and identifying new approaches towards solving problems. It is understood as a combination of creativity and innovation. Uduma (2004) explained that being entrepreneurial involves the consideration of a number of opportunities to enhance employee performance and business profit. The author suggested that the entrepreneur is
expected to apply strategic planning to assess if the opportunities provided for growth are worthwhile and how they could be successfully exploited.

The author stressed that strategic planning is an essential part to the concept of entrepreneurial development of an individual, which implies dexterity of competencies in an occupation to achieve a goal. Competency as explained by Alawa, Abanyam and Okeme (2010) is the successful performance of a task through the use of knowledge, skill, attitude and judgment. The authors emphasized that competency can also be referred to as the state of being functionally adequate in performance of one’s duty. Competency in the opinion of Cooper and Graham (2001) involves training situation where trainees have to attain a small number of specific and job-related competencies.

This ensures that participants build confidence as they succeed in mastering a particular competency. Competency as explained by Taba in Olaitan (2003) lays emphasis on knowledge, skills, attitudes and judgment which is generally required for successful performance of task rather than all the components comprising the tasks. The author stated that competency-based analysis involve the identification of relevant elements and using them to carry out some works. To be competent means that individual has acquired knowledge, skills and attitudes which are required for performing successfully at a specified proficiency level in any given work.

Entrepreneurial competency in the context of this study refers to identified knowledge and skills in plantain production that are organized sequentially in the way that a learner could master them and in addition with business knowledge and skill that would be used to pilot these competencies into economic success in plantain nursery, plantain plantation management, plantain processing and marketing enterprises. These competencies are also required to sustain the farmers in commercial plantain production for livelihood.
Commercial plantain production according to the report of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture IITA (2008) is the cultivation of large expanse of land with plantain plants of different species growing in it for commercial purpose. It requires huge investment of capital, labour and good managerial ability in order to ensure the sustainability of the resource inputs in the commercial plantain production. In another way, the report of FAO (2003) described commercial plantain production as that type of production in which products are primarily meant for market. This implies that production of plantain at commercial scale goes beyond production for food for consumption by immediate family members but rather production of plantain in large quantity for market to make profit by the farmers.

Commercial plantain production could be informed of an enterprise. The production of plantain in Abia and Imo States have been regarded by the people as a viable enterprise hence they are eager to become involved in it profitably. Anugwom (2007) stated that enterprises refer to business operations undertaken by a body which maybe one person, a family, a company or co-operative for a particular production or marketing activities. In the context of this study enterprise refers to business operations, undertaken by a farmer and his family in the cultivation of plantain for generating income for their livelihood.
In the study area, plantain production enterprises include plantain nursery, plantain plantation management, plantain processing and marketing. These enterprises could provide jobs not only for farmers but also for secondary school graduates. Secondary school graduates in the view of Onuka (2003) are school leavers who have completed the senior school certificate programme some of who may continue their studies in the higher institutions or may decide to enter into occupational fields. In the context of this study, secondary school graduates are those individuals that have completed six years of secondary school but could not secure admission into any higher institution or secure employment in any farm related occupation due to lack of interest and skills in farming. 

These unemployed secondary school graduates are found mostly in cities and urban towns in the area of study such as Aba, Okigwe, Orlu, Owerri among others roaming about the streets or found at motor parks or other public places as tout seeking for daily livelihood through political thurgerry, kidnapping, prostitution among others. In many cases they constitute menace to the society. These unemployed secondary school graduates could have benefited in commercial plantain production if they were mobilized and trained with competencies in commercial plantain production. 


Statement of the Problem

Plantain is one of the fruit crops that are of high importance to people of Abia and Imo states. It serves as food for human beings; while the peels serve as feed for animals. The benefit of plantain to man and animals has increased the demand for plantain in the area of study; based on this, government of Abia and Imo states have always encouraged secondary school teachers to teach students plantain production as major crop in order to improve its availability. Onuka (2008) reported that the curriculum of Agricultural science in secondary school was broad and made little provision for mastering of crop production skills.

Therefore, teachers could only teach rudimentary knowledge of plantain to students based on the congestion of the curriculum and interest of the teachers to teach students for passing external examination. Many students graduated from schools without acquiring competencies in plantain production or in any skill demanding occupation. The unemployed secondary school graduates migrate to urban cities where there are no jobs, causing nuisance such as kidnapping, militancy, stealing and all other vices; thereby making the study area insecure for life and property.

These unemployed secondary school graduates in the cities therefore, could be mobilized and trained with competencies in plantain production for employment if the needed competencies are identified and packaged into programmes for training them for employment in different plantain enterprises. Presently, in the area of study farmers who are involved in plantain production grow plantain as intercrop with either cocoyam or maize or cassava, when the major crop is harvested, plantain is abandoned in the farm without care. The crop continues to compete with weeds, insects and nutrients for survival and at the end develop plantain with low yield and poor quality.

Imo Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) (2007) reported that government through the extension agents provided farmers with inputs like fertilizer, improved plantain seedlings and financial assistance. The farmers diverted these inputs to growing cassava, cocoyam and yam that have almost the same maturing periods with plantain; while still growing plantain as an intercrop. Therefore, the low yield and poor quality of plantain still persist. Onuka (2003) reported that government of Abia and Imo states respectively established skill acquisition centres for skilled jobs like hair dressing, carpentry among others for equipping people with skills for work.

In these acquisition centres, there were no programmes on plantain production for empowering unemployed secondary school graduates or retraining farmers in plantain production. It, therefore, becomes necessary that plantain production competencies be identified and packaged into entrepreneurial programmes for integration into skill acquisition centres for training unemployed secondary school graduates for employment and retraining farmers for proficiency on the job.
Purpose of the Study The major purpose of the study was to identify and package entrepreneurial competencies in plantain production enterprises for training secondary school graduates for employment and retraining farmers in commercial plantain production in Abia and Imo states. Specifically, the study sought to identify:

 1. Entrepreneurial competencies needed by secondary school graduates for employment in plantain nursery practice enterprise.

 2. Entrepreneurial competencies needed by secondary school graduates for employment in plantain plantation management enterprise 

3. Entrepreneurial competencies needed by secondary school graduates for employment in plantain processing and marketing enterprise. 

4. Entrepreneurial competencies in plantain nursery where farmers needed improvement
5. Entrepreneurial competencies in plantain plantation management where farmers needed improvement . Entrepreneurial competencies in plantain processing and marketing where farmers needed improvement.  Competencies in training needed by trainers for training secondary school
graduates for success in employment and retraining farmers for proficiency in any plantain enterprise.
8. Package the competencies identified for each enterprise for training secondary school graduates and training farmers in commercial plantain production.


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