In recent times, the phrase ‘economic diversification’ has suddenly become one of the most frequently used by many business-minded Nigerian’s who are in the know regarding the diminishing status of Nigeria’s crude oil and are clamouring for a diversification of investments into mining, agriculture and manufacturing.
It has taken the inevitable spectre of significantly reduced revenue to bring the country to the realization that she needs to look beyond crude oil to grow her economy, and so frantic efforts are now being made by both the public and private sector to invest in the Agriculture sector.
Before the discovery of oil in 1956, Agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. Nigeria’s major cash crops then were Cocoa, Rubber, Cotton and Groundnuts. These crops generated huge revenue for the country via foreign exchange.
However, with the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, they became progressively relegated to the background, starting from the 60s up until recently, when it became obvious that crude oil, as opposed to Agriculture, is a vanishing and less attractive resource that lacks sustainability.
Today, agriculture is gradually regaining its glory in the country and, interestingly, there seem to be several other money-spinning cash crops begging for attention in Nigeria. One of such crops is the Moringa.
Originating from India and found in most tropical countries (Africa, Asia and America), Moringais is classified as a very versatile plant, as everything about it is useful in one way or the other. From its leaves to its roots, the crop finds usefulness in an overwhelmingly diverse way and is in hot demand all over the world.
Moringa contains four times more vitamin C than oranges; four times more calcium than milk; three times more protein than milk and about seven times more magnesium than Banana. Can you beat that!
Its numerous economic uses, together with its easy propagation, have raised growing international interest for it in recent time.
Moringa is an important food source in countries where it is found, as well as a cash crop. In India, Moringa pods are widely consumed and plantations exist to produce pods for export to overseas consumers.
In Nigeria, Moringa is growing in popularity and has been recommended to be included amongst the value chain commodities of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) by the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN).
This is in light of the enormous potentials it has in contributing to the country’s food security, wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
Today a kilogram of Moringa seed, which once sold for about N200 a few years ago, is sold for up to N10, 000.
The global demand for this wonder plant is enormous. From the food industry to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, perfumery, trado-medical and biofuel research industries, Moringa lends itself as an essential commodity.
In fact, the seed cake of Moringa is a better alternative to alum and chlorine in the treatment of water. It is used alongside slow sand filters to treat water in many European countries. Fortunately or unfortunately, most of the Moringa supply in these countries is sourced from Malawi.
Interestingly, Moringa can grow well in most parts of Nigeria, and it costs little to invest in Moringa farms. It is very easy to cultivate and grows quickly, even in poor soil. Once planted, the Moringa plant blooms eight months after.
Indubitably, it is clear that Nigerian can benefit from tapping into the economic potentials that Moringa offers, especially with its wide expanse of arable land, which is enough to cultivate more than we need for domestic use and for export to the outside world. But the question is: would she?