Jatropha plant, popularly known as ‘ewe lapalapa’ by the Yoruba’s is referred to as a ‘wonder plant’ that produce seeds with an oil content of 37%. The oil can then be combusted as fuel without being refined and contains also insecticide.
It burns with clear smoke-free flame, tested successfully as fuel for simple diesel engine and the by-products are press cake a good organic fertilizer.
Jatropha, which grows in many parts of the country, is rugged in nature and can survive with minimum inputs and easy to propagate.
The recent discovery of Jatropha plant by experts is no doubt a milestone intended to improve Nigeria’s Economy as it look inward into agriculture.
Based on analysis given by Stakeholders, Jatropha is described as a goldmine yet to be harnessed as it is capable of reducing hunger, creating jobs and building a sustainable environment.
Though, it may not really sound familiar to those who are unaware of its relevance. It freely grows as a plant while some consider it weed on farmlands.
Jatropha has also been proven to be able to cure diseases like cancer, piles, snakebite, paralysis, dropsy etc.
Nevertheless, research has shown that Jatropha is embedded with significant immeasurable values that have remained unexplored. Beyond its conventional use, Jatropha plant extract could be used as biofuel. It can be grown in major states across the country but mostly planted in the northern states.
Environmentalists have argued that this ‘Wonder plant’ is capable of restoring degraded lands, especially in states threatened by desertification.
By cultivating the crop, rural communities contending with impacts of desertification, as a result of climate change and falling of trees could be engaged.
Sudden collapse of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector has clearly opened an ample opportunity for multi-sectoral development of Nigeria’s economy.
It is common knowledge that Nigeria is currently confronted with various socio-economic and environmental challenges such as recession, poor living condition, forest and land degradation caused by drought, desertification, deforestation, soil erosion even flooding and destruction of the biodiversity.
In the northern part of the country, not less than 11 states are faced with desert encroachment threatening survival of over 40 million people, majority who are rural farmers and pastorals.
Clearly these problems are numerous and the impacts becoming unbearable. This is already triggering poverty and hunger in the country and therefore calls for a holistic and sustainable action.
Beyond rhetoric, the Federal Government and stakeholders in the environment, agriculture even those in the downstream sector cannot but peep into ways to adopt sustainable solutions, renewable energy as part of drive to end the situation beyond strives to increase government revenue.
Currently there are 11 front-line states in the northern part of the country threatened by desert encroachment. The states include Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Katsina, Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto Kebbi among others.
The respective state governments are known to be on the lookout for creating sustainable solutions to ease the impacts on over 40 million rural dwellers affected by the scourge.
Based on reports, the socio-economic development of the affected region is crippled and about 2, 168 square kilometres of crop land annually degraded.
Sadly, measures taken by some of these states governments to managing the affected lands so far have yielded minimal results.
Incidentally, the Senate Committee Chairman, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu equally identified Yobe State, for instance where about 42 per cent of its land mass is being affected by desertification.
The Senator during a public policy forum on desertification and deforestation in Abuja, restated economic and environmental values of Jatropha as capable of salvaging the situation.
Complementing position of the environment ministry through the Great Greenwall Agency (GGW), which identified Jatropha as one of the major plants vital to reclaim the lost lands, she said it would significantly help to remediate the degraded land spreading to 1,500 kilometres distance and 15 kilometres across.
“We must discourage tree logging, bush burning and monoculture. The use of Jatropha can serve as a vital means to recover some of the degraded lands. Jatropha is good to fight desertification and economic viability. The federal government should organise annual tree planting event.
“We must also emphasize education and awareness on impact of deforestation. Inability to cultivate crops does mean people won’t be able to take care of their family. This would lead to poverty and famine. It can also lead to migration, clashes and eventually, loss of lives,” she said.
As a result, the Federal Government through its agency GGW embarked on the afforestation programme across the states.
Surprisingly, Jatropha appears to have captured attention of different stakeholders across various sectors of the economy. The environment minister, Amina Mohammed, during an interview described Jatropha curcas as capable of fighting poverty, creating jobs as well as providing an alternative to fossil fuels.
“So many studies have identified the prospects of this important plant in the restoration of our degraded environment, provide alternative energy source such as biofuel and create wealth for our people.”