By Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE)
‘Nigeria’s failure to put into action a plan for people, planet and prosperity at the core of our development agenda has led to environmental degradation, ecological disasters, a depletion of our natural resources and deprivation leading to conflict.’
This statement culled from the concept note of the just concluded Federal Ministry of Environment 2-day International Dialogue on the role of Jatropha in the diversification of the Nigeria’s economy clearly sums up why the country has seen an increase in economic instability and hardships, socio-economic challenges, loss of jobs and livelihoods and increasing insecurity.
The goal of the dialogue was to develop a strategic framework for the production, processing and marketing of Jatropha in Nigeria. This is a laudable feat as it shows the federal government’s willingness to step up its effort to invest in alternative source of fuel in this case from a plant called Jatropha.
At the dialogue, Amina Mohammed, the Minister of the environment maintained that the world is gradually drifting away from the use of fossil fuel in order to cut down emissions and Nigeria could not afford to be exempted.
According to Dr. Newton Jibunoh – the founder of FADE Africa – who was present as the moderator of the event, Nigeria had always known that it must diversify the economy. The country’s near total reliance on hydrocarbon minerals as the dominant contributor to its GDP for years has bred a population of docile participants in the economy of the nation.
An important point to raise here is the fact that diversification does not mean replacement or doing away with the old. Diversification is also inevitable. Dwindling oil sales arising from production problems in the Niger Delta, low demands from previous markets, and discovery of other forms of hydrocarbon in old and new fields would have, sooner than later, forced the nation to pursue vigorously, the diversification of the economy.
Also, the ratification of the Paris Agreement has now added greater impetus to the quest for alternative energy sources because, if we legislate emission thresholds, we must meet them.
Investing in the Jatropha plant is highly important and beneficial to our quest for a green economy as it is a low maintenance fast growing multipurpose plant that can serve as a source of biofuel: high quality diesel fuel can be extracted from Jatropha oil. It should also be noted that the crop can withstand periods of drought, naturally repel insects.
The efforts of the Great Green Wall Programme of the Federal Ministry of Environment would also be positively affected as the cultivation of the Jatropha plant will improve the ecosystem of many lands, help to halt desertification in savannahs, and lower CO2 emission in the environment.
The need for developing a community based approach is at the heart of the Jatropha revolution. To nurture and ensure sustainability, a Jatropha project must be planned along a community hub which puts communities at the centre, anticipates the entire chain of production not just as a smart market strategy but as a sustainable livelihood and environment intervention.
The above can only be achieved if rural growers are sensitized and incentivized to take ownership of the Jatropha initiative and investors helped to understand the benefits of the plant. There should be a clear model that enable farmers invest along the value chain and profit share rather than remain out-growers.
Many of the stakeholders present echoed FADE’s position on the matter, stressing that that there was a need for policy to encourage cultivation be matched with viable strategy so as not to lead to loss for the farmers.
The truth is Nigeria has a lot of work to do if it is to ensure that it has a standing in history and the time to start is now.