Coconut trees might become extinct in Nigeria, in the next 50 years, a coconut processor, Mr Muheammad Mustafa, has said, cautioning against its use as building materials substitute.
Mustafa, Executive Director, Doublem Enterprises Development Centre, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos that using the tree’s trunk as planks and its fronds as roofing sheets was depleting the economic and ornamental tree.
He said that if people continued to cut and use it to construct buildings as currently being witnessed in the tree’s zones, its usefulness as an economic resource will run out.
“It is wrong to use the tree because that would grossly affect the raw materials sector of the economy.
“It is possible that in the next 50 years the coconut tree will go into extinction because of its depletion and that of our forests.
“The depletion of the forests, no doubt, has forced people to turn to using coconut tree as a substitute for building houses but we think this is a wrong idea.
“The coconut tree is meant to be used for food, medicine and industry and not for building houses,’’ Mustafa said, lamenting the growing rate of the use as raw material in the construction industry.
“If the coconut tree goes into extinction, then it will be difficult to get raw materials to service the manufacturing sector.
“Therefore, there is need to sensitise the people to desist from cutting coconut trees for building materials.’’
Mustafa said that several bye-products like brake pads, paving bricks and clutch discs could be got from the pulverised coconut shell, adding that automotive fuel could be extracted from refined coconut oil.
He said that these were just some of the benefits of coconut palms value chain addition if proper attention was given to its development in the agriculture industry.
According to him, to boost coconut production, there is the need for high yielding seedlings that could produce more oil.
“The major challenge we have is that the coconut tree presently produced in Badagry area does not yield oil like the ones from Ghana.
“Nonetheless, we are trying to sensitise people on the benefits of coconut oil to encourage them to go into coconut extraction.
“Apart from cutting the trees, another major constraint is that there are no young people extracting coconut oil; many of the extractors are old women who do not have working capital,’’ he told NAN.
Mustafa said that the coconut extractors were being organised into groups to form cooperative societies so that they could access loans from the Bank of Agriculture and Bank of Industry.
He said the coconut extraction sector was big and highly profitable to accommodate youths.
He advised young Nigerian graduates to take advantage of the abundant coconut resource in coastal areas of the country to engage in productive ventures rather than look for paid jobs.
NAN reports Nigeria currently produce 265,000 metric tonnes of coconut annually and is 18th on the world coconut production country index.